, Newburyport, MA

Local News

September 26, 2013

Salisbury says state is lowballing beach's value

SALISBURY — Ask a real estate agent what he or she would expect to pay for 390 acres of ocean and riverfront land and the answer would probably be a lot more than $5 million.

But $5 million is the value the state Department of Revenue is placing on all 1,263 acres of state-owned land in Salisbury, which includes the roughly 390 acres that make up Salisbury Beach State Reservation. This new assessed value of state land is down about 80 percent from the previous value of $27.4 million value obtained in 2010 through a settlement.

This is more than a case of pride. The assessed value of state-owned land relates directly to the amount the state pays Salisbury in payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOT funds, for years to come. The precipitous drop in value will take a healthy chunk out of the town’s budget every year, Salisbury Chief Assessor Cheryl Gorniewicz told selectmen recently, dropping the state’s cash payment from the current $240,000 down to $50,000.

This is far from the first time the state has attempted to slash the value of the acreage it owns in Salisbury. The last time valuation came round, in 2009, it attempted to reduce the value of its land in Salisbury by 64 percent, from $27.4 million down to $9.8 million. Salisbury’s appeal to the Appellate Tax Board resulted in a settlement right before the scheduled trial, resulting in an agreed upon value of $27,375,000 for the then 1,188 acres of land.

Now, four years later as the valuation is done anew, the problem’s back, and the town is again preparing its appeal before the Tax Board. With a trial scheduled for Dec. 18, unless a settlement can be reached, it’s the same old story, but one that’s wearing thin.

“Since 1985 Salisbury has had to appeal the state’s values,” Gorniewicz said. “It’s a waste of taxpayer money. Wouldn’t you think they could work things out better than this.”

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