GORHAM—At a special public hearing on Gorham's KRT-conducted reappraisal, KRT principals President Ken Rodgers and Vice President Rob Tozier, told selectmen that they plan to send out individual homeowners' appraisal notices on August 9. The hearing took place at the Gorham town hall Monday.
KRT plans "informational meetings" with homeowners who have questions from August 15-28, according to their report.
Project completion is projected for August 31.
If there needs to be an extension of that deadline, the contract would have to be amended, said Rodgers in response to a question from Selectman Chair David Graham.
Graham asked for assurance that residents would be able to discuss their assessments with KRT.
Tozier said that KRT would consider homeowners' comments and where the difference between homeowners' views and the assessment was notable, KRT would revisit those homes.
"We will go over all the interior data and if there are any glaring errors and we didn't get in the property, we will set up an appointment to go in the property. There will be a chance for glaring mistakes on the cards to be corrected," said Tozier.
The KRT executives said that the new appraisals will be on their web site and will be available at the town hall so that Gorham residents can compare their new assessed values with others in the town.
Overall, Gorham's valuation has dropped to $270,747,700 from $310,211,100, KRT stated in its report, although at the meeting Tozier's numbers were slightly different: $308,622,000 to $268,582,000.
Residential values dropped 19 percent, commercial values dropped 11 percent with no new assessment value applied to the Cascade Mill, for an overall value change of minus 13 percent in a range of values from 79 percent down to 26 percent up.
Among other things, Selectman Paul Robitaille asked if KRT had taken neighborhoods into consideration.
Tozier said KRT had and noted that there is a neighborhood classification in the Vision software used by the company. He said he would make that data available in a report to selectmen.
As a general view, he said, Stoney Brook has the highest prices, Gorham Heights is second, "basically all the neighborhoods off Main Street and Jimtown Road and Spruce Street—the little finger roads off Main Street—are in the next price range and spread throughout the town. The next neighborhood is property on the Glen Road and Lancaster Road and a few of the lower-priced subdivisions all lumped into one."
Selectman Bill Jackson asked about KRT's home inspections.
"It's been sporadic in the town," he said. "Some got interior inspections and some did not. . . I think you said that if you did not gain an interior inspection, you used what was on the card as a basis unless there was some reason not to," he said.
Tozier replied that was what the KRT assessors did, noting that a home might have been described on a card as a one story with an unfinished attic and the assessor might have seen an air conditioner in the "attic" window and then might amend the data card by concluding that the second story must now be finished instead of unfinished.
"Our guys do thousands of properties every year," said Rodgers. "They see every type."
"What about changes in quality?" asked Jackson.
"That's tough without seeing the inside but you can gather a lot from the outside," said Tozier. "Usually it's a match."
Tozier said that the KRT assessors had inspected 60 percent of the Gorham properties, but did not "get into" 40 percent, despite call backs in an attempt to inspect those properties.
"We tried our darnedest to accommodate as many as possible," said Michele Lutz, Gorham's assessing clerk.
Jackson said that he was concerned about some of the value changes he had seen in the preliminary spreadsheet provided to the selectmen.
Rodgers said that if the selectmen wanted to have an exta week or two to check the spreadsheet with present assessment numbers, that would be fine, but he warned that "if you feel you want an extra week or two, we couldn't meet the deadline and would have to have an extension."
Jackson replied that he didn't "want letters to go out to people but then we find something that is a glaring error and have to go back and say, 'Oops.'
"I'd like that level of comfort on a few things," he said.
Tozier said he would be free the following day and Wednesday to work with Jackson and "Michele—whoever—to look at properties so you would be comfortable."
In public comment, Don Provencher asked if taxes would have to be raised to make up the change in overall valuation.
"We are led to believe that the value has gone down for most properties in town. Is it too early to assume because of that the taxes will have to go up, that the selectmen will have to come up with $300,000 to $400,000 more?" he asked.
"We would have to address that question down the road when these issues have been settled," answered Graham.
Provencher also asked if KRT found the past appraisal data to be competent.
"There are a lot of changes, but that is the point of the revaluation," said Tozier.
Jay Holmes asked if the 20 property sales that were reported to have occurred in the town were valid sales between willing buyer and seller and not forced sales.
Tozier responded that they were "arms reach transactions," i.e. between willing buyer and seller.
Holmes asked if that was an average number of sales for a town the size of Gorham.
Tozier responded that one-and-a-half to two percent is average.
"This was 3 percent," he said.
Holmes also asked about the inaccuracies that were mentioned about the previous town valuation.
Town Manager Robin Frost replied that there were measurements that were inaccurate and a significant number of the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration samplings of those Gorham assessments "came out inaccurate."
Since the last full valuation was in 2007, it could be expected that changes would have taken place in many properties, Graham noted in his introduction to the KRT presentation at the hearing.
Currently, Tozier said that NH DRA samplings of 20 KRT assessed properties has found only two errors and acceded that DRA is sampling the work as it progresses.