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October 03. 2013 10:59AM

Property tax bills will now be coming on time

CONCORD – The Department of Education has agreed to provide the Department of Revenue Administration with state-aid estimates by the end of next week so local property tax rates can be set sooner.
"After receiving significant feedback from local and state leaders, we met again with DOE to see what could be done about getting adequacy aid calculations earlier than (Nov. 7)," said DRA commissioner John Beardmore. "We have agreed to use an estimated adequacy calculation that DOE should be able to get to us late next week, which will allow DRA to get back on a rate-setting schedule that will be similar to last year."
On Tuesday the DRA issued a memo saying it could not begin setting local property tax rates before Nov. 7 because of a 2012 change in state law requiring the state education department to use more up-to-date attendance records to determine state education aid to school districts.
A school district's average daily attendance is one factor used in determining state aid. Traditionally those figures are two years old, but Senate Bill 401, passed last year, requires the department to use attendance figures from the preceding year in making the calculation.
The Department of Education told the DRA it would not have those figures finalized before Nov. 7.
As a result, tax rates the DRA traditionally begins setting in October would not have been set until after the education department had finalized attendance figures, the DRA had said.
Some communities were concerned the late tax rates and collections would make it impossible to pay school and county bills on time, and towns would have to use tax anticipation notes to make the payments.
Beardmore said his department will issue information about the new schedule later Thursday.
Previous story follows:
CONCORD — Local tax rates for 2013 will not be set by the Department of Revenue Administration until at least Nov. 7 because of a change in how state education aid is calculated.

According to information released by the department, a 2012 law requires the Department of Education to use more up-to-date school attendance rates in calculating state education aid to communities.

A school district's average daily attendance is one factor used in determining state aid. Traditionally those figures are two years old, but Senate Bill 401, passed last year, requires the department to use attendance figures from the preceding year in making the calculation.

The Department of Education told the DRA it will not have those figures finalized before Nov. 7.

As a result, tax rates, which the DRA begins setting for communities in October, will not be set until after the education department has finalized attendance figures.

The DOE expects some school districts could see significant changes in state aid with the new calculations, which would have to be adjusted because no community's grant can be 5 percent higher or lower than the previous year's.

Consequently, the DRA said it will wait to set the tax rates until the information is available.

"The result would be many communities raising too much money in local school taxes with needless increases to local education tax rates simply due to the lateness of the data," the DRA wrote. "It is the DRA's determination the most reasonable way to proceed is to postpone the finalization of municipal tax rates until the adequacy aid calculations are completed by DOE on Nov. 7, 2013. This modest delay in rate setting will ensure the most accurate tax rates are calculated to ensure the proper local school tax effort is raised and prevent potential volatility in tax rates due to reliance on estimated adequacy aid."

Sue Desruisseaux, town administrator for Goffstown, said Wednesday that she is definitely concerned about the delay, and has reached out to local state representatives to find out how the issue can be corrected."We typically have our tax rate set this week," said Desruisseaux, adding tax bills are usually mailed out by Nov. 1.

If the Department of Revenue Administration does not set the tax rate until Nov. 7, the tax bills will be prepared and mailed significantly later than usual, she said, adding most municipalities expect to receive that revenue each year by Dec. 1.

"This was an untimely notice," said Desruisseaux, who is cautiously optimistic the rates will be set sooner than anticipated.

If not, she fears that Goffstown — and other communities — will not have the necessary funds to pay county and school taxes that are included in the local tax bills.

The county tax bill, she said, is due in mid-December.

"We won't have the money to pay them," said Desruisseaux, explaining the town would be forced to use tax anticipation notes or else pay interest. She said Goffstown hasn't used tax anticipation notes in the past 14 years.

"I am sure every municipality is concerned about this," she added.

Gail Stout, the tax collector for Amherst, said she isn't too worried about the delay, but hopes local tax bills can be issued by at least mid-December and not too much closer to the holidays.

"The time line does fluctuate every year. They were actually behind last year as well," said Stout.

Typically, the Amherst tax rate is set by the end of October, with property tax bills being mailed Nov. 1 and bills due Dec. 1.

Last year, however, Stout said the rate wasn't finalized until Nov. 7, meaning the bills were mailed on Nov. 13 and due on Dec. 13.

"I expect it will be about the same this time around," she said.



grayno@unionleader.com. Union Leader Correspondent Kimberly Houghton contributed to this report.


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