The Selectmen on July 1 announced that a comprehensive settlement was reached with PSNH, ending 8 years of litigation over the assessment of Merrimack Station. The settlement resolves all matters in dispute and restores the relationship the Town and PSNH, now known as Eversource Energy, enjoyed for over 50 years. As with any settlement, this represents a compromise between the positions held by each party given that PSNH claimed more than $14,000,000 was owed.
In summary, the settlement provides:
1. All outstanding disputes, from 2014 through 2018 are resolved.
2. Being scheduled to start another trial, Bow will not incur the expense of more litigation, which could have been well over $250,000.
3. The assessment on Eversource property in Bow (after the sale of Merrimack Station and Garvin Falls Hydroelectric facility) are stipulated for tax years 2019 through 2023.
4. Eversource agreed to not challenge property tax assessments for tax years 2019 through 2023.
5. The Town will reimburse PSNH $10 million for overpayment of taxes.
6. No additional interest will be paid on the overpayment amount.
7. Thanks to prudent planning by the Town officials, $4,250,000 will be paid in 2019 without additional tax increases. The payments will be:
a. $3.25 million July 10, 2019
b. $500,000 on August 1, 2019
c. $500,000 on December 31, 2019
8. The remainder will be refunded as credits against future property tax obligations of Eversource over four years. The credits will be:
a. $1,550,000 in 2020
b. $1,400,000 in 2021
c. $1,400,000 in 2022
d. $1,400,000 in 2023
If the taxes owed by Eversource are less than the credit, the Town will pay Eversource the balance.
To offset the inevitable reduction in the value of Merrimack Station, Town officials have worked to attract new business investment. Examples of success are the Exel warehouse on Route 3-A and the newly constructed Coastal Forest Products facility on River Road. Since the fall of 2018, over $27 million of new property investment has been constructed in Bow and added at least $725,000 to the tax base at the current rate.
We are confident our business development zone will expand in the years ahead and serve to offset the decline in the assessed value of the Merrimack Station,” said the statement from the Selectmen.
The Selectmen said they were “confident the business district will continue to grow. At the same time, it must be recognized that there will be years of austerity as we transition away from relying on one large commercial taxpayer for the majority of our tax base.”
Property values have risen across Bow and a new re-assessment of properties with higher values will help offset the tax loss of Merrimack Station.