Letter: Councilor Brier is wrong on annual assessments

Posted 3/6/20

Councilor Jacob Brier's letter "Why I support annual revaluation" only succeeds in sidestepping the real problem: an ongoing lack of proper oversight of the assessor's office by the …

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Letter: Councilor Brier is wrong on annual assessments


Councilor Jacob Brier's letter, "Why I support annual revaluation," only succeeds in sidestepping the real problem: an ongoing lack of proper oversight of the assessor's office by the current town manager. Assessor Minardi's disdain for following basic industry best practices when assessing properties in Barrington is a fixable management problem.

Councilor Brier proposes that instead of solving a "fixable" problem, big government should step in to add one more burden to residents with annual full walk-through revaluations, along with the extra tax burden to pay for all this. Full walk-through revaluations are currently limited to once every nine years for a good reason. They are expensive and a huge pain in the you-know-where for residents. 

Councilor Brier's reasons for annual assessments falls flat, so let's examine his fallacies:

1) An erroneous assessment "can't be changed" until the next reval. - Wrong! State law gives the assessor specific authority to correct any under-valuation due to a mistake and then render a supplemental tax bill on that property, even if the mistake was caused by the assessor himself  (ref - RIGL § 44-5-23).

2) A subsequent reval will correct mistakes. - This fallacy is like saying a failing student will do better if we just wait until the next test. Fixing the problem of rogue assessment policies can be solved by simply demanding that the process stay within the bounds of industry best practices. Making the same mistake more often will only help Northeast Revaluation's bank account.  

3) Annual assessments are worth it to bring fairness to resident tax bills. - Wrong again! Full walk-through revaluations do not necessarily result in quality outcomes. We learned that with the BET lawsuit a decade ago. Further, more statistical updates won't solve anything since they are only supposed to look at trends in neighborhood sales data, not adjust property condition factors in the update process (ref. - Standard on Ratio Studies, International Association of Assessing Officers).  

The assessor problem would disappear if the town had an assessor who would simply stay within the bounds of well established industry best practices instead of injecting his own personal tastes for how Barrington residents should be taxed.

Several years ago, under then Town Manager Peter DeAngelis, Assessor Minardi committed to following such industry best practices in the town's settlement of the BET lawsuit. Town residents joined together to complete a standards document that was supposed to be used in future town assessments. Under the current town manager, rogue assessment policies have again corrupted the process.

So what is the real problem here? I think residents know the answer. Covering the problem up with bigger and more burdensome government is not a solution for residents. It only works for a town government pretending there is only one path out. Let's try getting back to basics before throwing the switch on more burdensome government.

Gary Morse


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.