WHITEFIELD, N.H. -- As many as 400 taxpayers, furious over the so-called "view tax," being assessed in town after town in New Hampshire when property revaluations are done, packed the White Mountains Regional High School auditorium for a forum Monday night.
The forum was the final one in a series ordered by the state Supreme Court after a challenge of properties getting steep added taxes based on their "view factors," as one of the many considerations in determining fair market value, according to Betsey Patten, chairman of the Assessing Standards Board.
The board held the hearing Monday along with a series of other hearings to gather public input on property owners' views being assessed additionally.
Moments after the opening of the public forum, one taxpayer demanded that the group rise and say the Pledge of Allegiance together, saying it was a North Country tradition. They did. Taxpayers, some driving from as far away as Orford, N.H., a two-hour drive, were in absolute unison: They oppose being charged additional taxes for their views.
People shared their fears about losing their homes, and about their worries for elderly people being forced to sell.
They said people with "wow" views pay more for their properties in the first place, and pay taxes then on the higher values their properties would likely command if sold.
Words like "absurd," "capricious," "ludicrous," "subjective," "disgrace," the same ones over and over again, as taxpayers took to the microphone, urging the board to take the word back to Concord, that this tax must go.
Tea Bag Tags
Tea bags were given out at the door with safety pins attached, and little stickers affixed saying "No View Tax," with the first word crossed out with red marker. Many speakers had them pinned to their shirts and coats as they spoke. The meeting, which began at 6 p.m., was still in full swing after 8 p.m.
Petitions signed by people from all over New Hampshire were turned in on card tables set out front. More blank petitions were being picked up by taxpayers to take back to their hometowns.
People told the panel that the state's rural character will be gobbled up by development, because farmers will be forced to sell as the taxes will be beyond their ability to pay.
A public member on the assessment board, Tom Thomson of Orford, is the leading voice fighting the view tax. His town has seen view taxes imposed in amounts ranging from $10,000 to $300,000 and he has one friend whose small cabin without running water or septic has been levied a $200,000 view tax, he said.
Realtor Aurore Hood said people do pay extra for their views - when they buy a property which has a nice view.
Yvette Viger of Groveton said people are being asked to pay for views of mountains they can't access and they don't own. "It doesn't seem fair," she said.
Lancaster resident and business owner Nikki Wooster-Goodwin said when she returned home after 12 years living away, she knew the wages would be lower, and she continues to work several jobs to survive.
"We have poverty with a view," she said, to applause. What little earnings people in the North Country come by, they come by through hard work, and they will fight letting the government take more of their hard-earned money for a view tax.
Douglas Scamman, speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, said the view tax issue is gaining momentum across New Hampshire, "and rightfully so."
"The view tax is strictly a subjective way of appraising property," Scamman said. He said the issue is one that will undoubtedly be coming before the new state Legislature when it convenes in January, and a bill is brought forward to deal with the controversy over view taxes.
"The state needs to look at it and figure this out," Scamman said Monday.
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