Letter: Town council owes taxpayers a duty

Posted 11/1/19

To the editor:

The town council has said it should not interfere with our tax assessor doing his job. Doing so, counselors argue, would allow political pressure to shape the assessor’s …

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Letter: Town council owes taxpayers a duty

Posted

To the editor:

The town council has said it should not interfere with our tax assessor doing his job. Doing so, counselors argue, would allow political pressure to shape the assessor’s decisions. But this situation is different. In this case, the assessor has gone rogue with a new rule that contravenes state law and every principal of fair taxation. It singles out some 350 taxpayers, without notice, to pay a significant tax increase in a non-assessment year without consideration of any other properties.

In this case, state law provides a mechanism for the town council to intervene—that is when the town solicitor issues an opinion that this assessor’s crazy rule is “illegal”. I personally have spoken to four attorneys and former attorneys that all agree this rule is illegal. I make five. The only person in the state who has said this rule is legal is our tax assessor, and he has no legal training. 

So, this is exactly the situation the state legislators had in mind when they amended the statute and empowered the town council to intervene on behalf of taxpayers.

Town councilors say this is a job better left to the town’s Board of Assessment Review (BAR). “Don’t worry,” they say, “BAR will take care of you.” But their assurances are misguided at best and downright disingenuous for anyone who is vaguely familiar with the appeals process. This volunteer board of local citizens operates under very limited jurisdiction. State law specifically forbids it to consider whether a tax is illegal. That is left to the courts, and more appropriately in this case, for our solicitor.

Instead of continuing to meet with the solicitor in secrete, the town council should direct our solicitor to publish a well-reasoned legal opinion as to why or why not this is an illegal tax. In the absence of that, our council has not done its duty.

Charlie Payne

Barrington

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