Eric Wind Attorney at NH Public Utilities Commission in Concord.

Supreme Court At-a-Glance Contributor Eric Wind, Attorney at the NH Public Utilities Commission in Concord, N.H.

No. 2020-0475

September 16, 2021

Affirmed

 

  • Whether the Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) erred in granting the respondent abatements on tax assessments in the Towns of Chester and Hudson (Towns) for tax years between 2014 and 2016.

 

In a proceeding initiated by a public utility for abetment of the Town’s property tax assessments, the BTLA considered stipulated aggregate assessments for the tax years, stipulated applicable equalization ratios for the tax years, and two different determinations of fair market value for utility’s property holdings. The BTLA determined that the difference between the equalized market values and aggregate assessed value was greater than five percent, and granted abatement. The Towns moved for partial reconsideration, arguing that the BTLA should have calculated the equalized fair market value differently. The BTLA denied the Towns’ motion, and this appeal followed.

On appeal, the Towns argued that the BTLA erred by equalizing the aggregate fair market value of the utility’s taxable property without first excluding the value of the utility’s land interests. According to the Towns, the utility failed to challenge the assessments of its land interests, and, therefore, the BTLA “erroneously applied the equalization ratios to already-proportionate property values, creating inaccurate calculations” and “effectively granting abatements … for unchallenged parcels.”  The Towns also asserted that the BTLA erred by denying their motion for partial reconsideration.

The Court denied jurisdictional arguments, finding the BTLA possessed subject matter jurisdiction, citing Appeal of Town of Sunapee, 126 N.H. 214 (1985) and RSA 71-B:5, I. The Court was not persuaded by the towns’ arguments that the BTLA adopted values that were already proportionate, finding that the determinations of fair market value did not reach any conclusion regarding the proportionality of the Towns’ assessments. The Court observed that the two reports conclusion that the assessed value of the utility’s land interests represented fair market value does not mean that the Town’s assessed those interests proportionately. The Court held that the BTLA’s factual findings were supported by the record and not erroneous as a matter of law.

 

Donahue, Tucker & Ciandella, Exeter (Christopher L. Boldt, Eric A. Maher, and William K Warren on the brief and Eric A. Maher orally) for the petitioners. Sulloway & Hollis, Concord (Margaret H. Nelson, Derek D. Lick, and Trevor J. Brown on the brief and Derek D. Lick orally) for the respondent.