Town considers special meeting on solar tax

  • Resident John Belliveau of New Ipswich speaks with Board of Assessors members Frank Danisienka, Chair Jeanne Cunningham and Jim Coffey during a meeting of the board Tuesday. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/20/2016 7:43:55 PM

While members of the Select Board have indicated they will put forward an exemption for renewable energy during the next Town Meeting, those that are facing a tax hike this year don’t want to wait.

With many residents speaking out against the taxing of solar panels as part of their property, Assessor Jim Coffey has suggested that there may be sufficient cause to hold a special Town Meeting on the issue, rather than wait until next March.

The Board of Assessors, on advice from the town’s contracted assessor, set out letters to homeowners earlier this year, advising them that the value of solar panels attached to their homes would be assessed and taxed this year.

The state allows for towns to adopt a process that exempts solar panels from taxation – but it must be accepted by the public at Town Meeting, which New Ipswich has never done.

“I personally don’t want to tax people on solar panels,” said Assessor Jim Coffey. “It’s a pain in the neck.”

Residents who have solar panels or are considering getting them packed the Board of Assessors meeting on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

“You’re taking the green out of going green,” argued John Belliveau of New Ipswich, who until recently was considering putting 50 panels on his property, some of which he would own and some of which he would lease.

There are very few people, said Belliveau, who would be willing to make an investment in solar panels if the savings they get in energy are offset by an increase in their property tax.

“Who on earth is going to do that?” said Belliveau, who said he himself has put his solar project on hold until the town passes a solar tax exemption.

Several residents pointed to a warrant article passed in 1970 that “encouraged” the Select Board to exempt solar panels that was a closed system, providing energy for a single home.

Assessor Jim Coffey argued that the warrant article was not binding, was addressed to the Select Board and not the Board of Assessors, which was the proper authority, and possibly was illegal since the state requires the assessing of solar panels even if the town later exempts their value from local taxes.

Coffey said the board did not have an option to simply not assess solar panels under the state law, despite area solar installers saying that there are towns that have not voted in the exemption which do not assess homeowner’s panels.

“I’m aware there are towns that ignore it,” said Coffey, who said he had spoken witht the State’s Department of Revenue Administration on the matter. “That’s not the right way to do it.”

Greg Blake, owner of South Pack Solar in Peterborough, said assessing the worth a solar panel adds to a home is near impossible for someone who doesn’t have an expertise in the technology, not only because solar panels depreciate in value as time passes, but because depending upon the technology, they can vary widely in their cost.

“You’re opening a can of worms because there are so many variables,” he said.

“If solar panels got taxed on my home, I would challenge that until the cows came home.”

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or

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