New Study Looks at How Low Property Values Can Hinder Local N.H. Economies

Sep 4, 2018

Parts of the state with lower property values may have a harder time building their economies. That’s one of several ideas outlined in the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute’s recent brief “Measuring New Hampshire’s Municipalities: Economic Disparities and Fiscal Capacities.”

With cities and towns in New Hampshire relying heavily on property taxes to fund things like infrastructure and city services, property values -- and their relative taxes -- are key.

"If the property tax base, on a per capita basis, is not there to support those needed investments, that may create a situation where the city isn't able to attract more residents or more businesses," says NHFPI Policy Analysts Phil Sletten.

The property valuation dynamic can be seen in a city like Berlin, which has one of the lowest per capita property valuations in the state, but one of the highest property tax rates. Sletten says Berlin’s population has dwindled to nearly half of what it was in the 1930s.

“It’s [Berlin’s] a place where you have infrastructure that is existing and does need to be upkept in many instances by the city and the city is relying on a property tax base to be able to raise those funds,” Sletten says.

Because public services are funded at the local level, getting more specific data on economic conditions for municipalities is important to understanding policy challenges, Sletten adds.