Manchester aldermen learned just how angry some residents are as revaluation notices reflecting big jumps in home values showed up in mailboxes this week, with some airing their grievances during a board meeting Tuesday night at City Hall.
“I am gravely concerned about the financial impact the reval will have on property taxpayers across the city,” former Ward 8 alderman Mike Porter wrote in an email sent to board members. “This is likely the worst possible time to place such an increased tax burden on the taxpayers.”
Porter said senior citizens on fixed incomes will be particularly hard hit.
The red-hot home sales market shifted values from commercial properties to the residential side. Single-family houses are up 46%, with a median assessed value of $304,300. Commercial property rose just 14%, with industrial sites up 21%.
Manchester is required by state law to reappraise all local real estate at least every five years. The last revaluation was performed five years ago.
Assessor Bob Gagne said in November 2020 the city’s overall property value was pegged at nearly $9.3 billion($9,296,887,624). As of Aug. 31, the estimated full market value exceeds $13 billion — a 40% increase, based on new construction and market changes.
Gagne said when the 40% increase in the tax base is applied to the current tax rate of $24.66, the resulting tax rate will drop. He said he expects it to fall somewhere between $17.50 and $18, with the rate finalized near the end of November.
Tax rates are set by the state Department of Revenue Administration.
Porter asked aldermen to order the Board of Assessors to submit the numbers to the DRA no later than the second week of October so it can set the rate before the election cycle “so people will know what their increase is and vote accordingly.”
“I don’t want to see the political game played by some to hide the numbers until after the election,” Porter wrote.
Both candidates for mayor running against incumbent Mayor Joyce Craig echoed Porter’s comments, calling for paperwork to be filed with the state so the new tax rate can be communicated to voters ahead of the municipal election on Nov. 2.
“State law requires revals at least every five years,” said Victoria Sullivan. “As we were in a state of emergency it’s unfortunate this board did not reach out to the state and ask for a waiver. In a city in the midst of a housing crisis, this (reval) will only exacerbate the situation and lead to more people losing their homes.”
“The tax revaluation has people on edge,” said Richard Girard. “The increase in value is shocking and hazardous to their finances and has them concerned.”
Several residents said they will be badly hurt by how much their property values have risen.
Paul Porter of Manchester cautioned it’s not just seniors and people on fixed incomes who could be hurt by the revaluation.
“There are many younger people who are starting out on their work careers that simply will not be able to afford the increases that some of them will incur,” wrote Porter in a social media post. “For those who escrow their taxes they will have a shortfall in their escrow account if they do not have the funds available to come up with the increase they could be in default with their bank.
“This revaluation should have, in my opinion, have been delayed until the market has stabilized. The prices we are seeing today will not hold for the future especially with the excessive tax obligation.”
Manchester resident Jon DiPietro blamed a lack of housing in Manchester on the city’s “excessive red tape and restrictive zoning laws.”
“Add to that the ridiculous actions of the federal government to distort labor markets and empty out commercial buildings and this is what you get,” wrote DiPietro in a social media post.
Manchester’s Kathy Sullivan, former chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, explained in a social media post that the numbers are the result of the current market.
“Residential has been crazy,” wrote Sullivan. “Commercial just hasn’t increased as much. This is the way it is all over southern NH and Massachusetts. If you want cheap real estate, move to Coos County. Very pretty up there. We’ll miss you, but you’ll be happier.”
How it worked
The new assessments were determined by reviewing all permits and sales between April 1, 2020 and April 1, 2021, updated construction costs, land values and income and capitalization rates for the commercial properties, Gagne said.
The rates and values were then tested against qualified sales occurring between April 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021, “to ensure they are at market value,” Gagne said.
The value of residential condos in the city rose 52%, while four to eight family building units shot up 76%. The new median assessed value for duplexes is $338,600, up 64%. Three-family homes come in at $385,700 — a 61% jump.
Any property owner wishing to have their new assessment reviewed with a representative of Vision Government Solutions can schedule a telephone appointment by calling 888-844-4300 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday or by going to www.vgsi.com/schedules, clicking on Manchester, NH Hearings and following the instructions.
In-person hearings will be scheduled for residents who request them.
Residents can look up their property’s tax value at gis.vgsi.com/manchesternh.