What was Portsmouth thinking?

Published 9:42 pm Saturday, April 25, 2009

I thought this was a dead issue until I read another newspaper this morning stating that Maria Kattman, the former Suffolk tax assessor, was hired by the City of Portsmouth.

In 2008, I received a notice concerning my tax assessment for my Suffolk home. My jaw dropped when I saw the amount of increase. It was close to a $200,000 increase from the previous year.

I will spare everyone the details of my own particular issue, but I want the citizens of Suffolk and Portsmouth to know several items. One is that nobody from the assessor’s office had been out to my home, ever. A sharp increase like this should have raised some flags internal to the assessor’s office.

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At least in my case, they had completely relied upon aerial photos and a computer program to determine assessments. The comparables used to determine the assessment were completely different.

My situation was different, because the city assessor did not understand how my property was situated, and they had made a huge error. Instead of them taking ownership of their mistake, I had to seek out letters from the city’s planning and zoning offices to explain the situation to the assessor. The due diligence was transferred from the assessor’s office to me, the citizen.

I started to attend the City Council hearings on the topic. It was obvious to me that the assessor’s office had made huge mistakes and was completely unable to handle the flood of concerns from more than 500 citizens who filed for appeals.

Were more than 500 citizens wrong? I highly doubt that, since the Board of Equalization amended so many assessments.

I attended one City Council meeting and listened as the council members asked questions regarding the appeals. The assessor’s office was clueless. At the time, they couldn’t say how many appeals had been filed, how many had been resolved, how many were unresolved, and how many would go before the Board of Equalization.

It was an amazing level of incompetence in our government. I was not surprised at all when I read that Ms. Kattman had been fired. If I had performed at that level of incompetence and then proceeded to flee from any responsibility in the matter, I would have been fired, and my peers would have looked at me with shame for not accepting the responsibility.

Now, Ms. Kattman has been hired by the city of Portsmouth. If I lived in that city, I would want to see the resumes of the other applicants. For her to run a city office into the ground and then be hired again in a neighboring city is a sign of insanity.

I also can’t believe how much she is getting paid as a city government official. I don’t know how many employees she will manage, but a salary of more than $100,000 seems too high.

How can Portsmouth say that she was a good manager? It was painfully obvious to more than 500 residents in Suffolk and to the Suffolk City Council that she was not.

At this point, I say good luck to the residents of Portsmouth and suggest they scrutinize their property assessments closely.