Spiking Property Taxes Causing ‘Major Turnover’ at Long Sands

Ossipee — November 17, 2005 — Lakefront tax hikes are driving full-time residents off the water, selectmen and an Ossipee Lake area homeowners’ representative said Monday.

Jean Hansen, from the Long Sands Association, said she has lived on the town’s big lake since 1983. In the last year, she said, five homes sold on Long Sands Road because property taxes are fast becoming unmanageable. Yet another neighbor has put a home on the market at well over the $1 million mark, she told selectmen Monday.

“There is major turnover on Long Sands Road,” she said.

The board Monday night released the town’s new tax rate. At $12.32 per $1,000 in valuation for Center Ossipee properties, $12.38 for West Ossipee and $12.43 for Ossipee Corner, Hansen said her taxes will about double, again.

Hansen says it’s just more of the same.

“Each year it seems to double,” she said. “Without my business, I’d be in trouble.”

Selectman Harry Merrow worries the troubling increases are driving off the town’s traditional full-time residents and inviting in only affluent seasonal part-timers. He said he moved off the lake years ago when he saw that taxes were headed for the moon.

“I’m really concerned about that, losing full-time residents,” Merrow said. “My prediction is it won’t be long before you won’t find anything on the lake within a million dollars.”

Selectmen said that after the town’s latest state-mandated revaluation, assessed property values in Ossipee went up, and down, in different areas. “One third went down, one third went up and one third stayed the same,” selectman Joe Skehan said. “If you lived on the lake you got hammered.”

Tax bills go out next week, and lake folk may be in for a shock. “Some (assessments) went up couple hundred thousand,” Merrow said.

Merrow blamed the hikes in part on the exodus of owners of increasingly high priced homes. Ossipee’s assessments are based on recent sales data, which shows a sharp upward trend in waterfront value, he said.

“The reason taxes have been going up is because people are selling and moving,” he said. Merrow, like other officials in area towns seeing property taxes crunching down on the elderly, said the state’s taxation system is broken.

New Hampshire’s tax structure relies almost exclusively on property taxes to fund local services, most notably, education. Rising taxes are especially hard on retired residents on fixed incomes who have lived at family homes for years.

“I don’t agree with the state either,” he said. “What do you do with somebody who’s been on the lake for years and they’re in their 80s? How would you like to move when you 85? It doesn’t make any sense.”

But Madison selectman John Arruda is unsure if there is enough support statewide right now to push for a major change. Arruda said the idea of taxing land stems from back when its value was tied to production. The larger the farm plot, the better the land for farming, the more it was worth, he said. But with the steady decline of family farms, that equation is no longer viable, he said.

“It’s just not like that any more,” he said. “It’s ruining our rural character.”

“But any candidate for governor who mentions getting rid of the property tax, it’s like forget about it,” he said. “They get blown out of the water.”

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