Letter: Statement on property assessment policy

Posted 10/23/19

To the editor:

When I read in the Barrington Times about our town’s new approach to assessments, my first instinct was to learn more about it myself and help get the word out. I shared the …

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Letter: Statement on property assessment policy


To the editor:

When I read in the Barrington Times about our town’s new approach to assessments, my first instinct was to learn more about it myself and help get the word out. I shared the information I’d learned, along with my partially informed opinion, in an article that the Barrington Times published the following week. I quickly realized I’d spoken too soon. Rather than calling attention to that, I became less communicative as I learned more about the precarious situation in which I found myself and the town. This broke two of my goals as a public servant: frequent, open communication and admitting my mistakes.

My hope is that this statement addresses both of those shortcomings, and puts an end to them.

To be clear, I do not speak for the Council. This statement reflects my personal position, learning, experience and understanding.

In the article I wrote for the Barrington Times back in July, I stated “[the new assessment] decision is not subject to council approval, but to be transparent, I feel I should share that I would have approved of the change, given the circumstances.” As I have learned more about the assessment process, the merits and meaning of the legal decision in the Balmuth v Portsmouth case, and I’ve gained a better understanding of assessment policy and purpose, I no longer hold that opinion.

Furthermore, I now have a more complete understanding of my role here. Given that property assessment policy is not within the council’s purview, it would be a mistake for me to very publicly broadcast what my opinion is on this issue. I am willing and able to do so in person, openly, but more discreetly than a published and widely distributed written statement. There is good reason for this, but because I am not an attorney, I’m leaving the details and relevant regulations out of this statement. I expect that information will be shared at our next Town Council Meeting, Nov 4.

My purpose with this statement is to hold myself accountable to correct a past public statement with which I no longer agree, and to ensure that I am continuing to broadly communicate my experience and the efforts of my work for our town.

To the residents who have reached out to express their disagreement with this issue specifically, I encourage you to use the long-established process through which you can have an assessment dispute resolved: please file an appeal. Information about how to do that can be found on our town website, here: http://www.barrington.ri.gov/forms/taxassessor.php, or by calling the Assessor’s office, (401) 247-1900 x3.

As always, I welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue, or any other, in greater detail with anybody who would like to do so. My contact information is at the bottom of this page.

Gratefully in your service,

Jacob N. S. Brier


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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.