CONCORD — The House Municipal and County Government Committee is expected to amend a bill intended to clarify the taxation of recreational vehicles in order to spare Laconia from losing $2-million of assessed valuation, foregoing $220,000 in property tax revenue and adding a dime to its tax rate.
The amendment will be be proposed today when the committee meets to make its recommendation on the bill to the full House.
Senate Bill 333, as introduced by Sen. Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith), would exempt from property taxation recreational vehicles remaining in any one city, town or unincorporated place for fewer than 45 days as well as recreational vehicles stored or placed on a rented campsite at a recreational campground or camping park no matter for how long.
The bill carried the Senate by a unanimous vote of 24-0 in January, but soon met with opposition from city officials. Last week, Laconia City Manager Scott Myers and Mayor Ed Engler told the House Municipal and County Government Committee that there are 423 recreational vehicles parked at a dozen campgrounds year around that the city has taxed for years, but would become exempt from property tax if the bill were enacted as written.
Meanwhile, lobbyist Henry Veilleux, representing the New Hampshire Campground Owners Association told the committee that recreational vehicles at the 117 campgrounds in the state were treated differently by different cities and towns. Some are taxed as real estate while others are not. Some municipalities bill the owners of the recreational vehicles while others, unable to identify the owners, bill the owners of the campgrounds. "It's a mess," he said.
Veilleux proposed exempting only those recreational vehicles less than eight-feet, six inches in width, leaving the so-called "park models," which can only be transported with a special permit, liable to property tax. He estimated that the amendment would enable Laconia to recapture 66 percent of its foregone valuation and revenue.
However Myers and Engler expressed reservations, explaining that the issue was not confined to the "park models." They claimed that other units meeting the statutory definition of a recreational vehicle were effectively permanent, if seasonally occupied, structures, many with porches, decks and other extensions. Likewise, Engler cited one of the two court decisions that led to the taxation of recreational vehicles, in which the judge held that "these trailers are more akin to a summer camp dwelling than to a camper intended for travel. A summer camp dwelling is a building."
Following the hearing, Rep. Marjorie Porter (D-Hillsborough), who chairs the committee, appointed a sub-committee to draft an amendment acceptable to city officials, municipal assessors and campground owners.
The amendment would exempt recreational vehicles registered as motor vehicles or trailers less than eight feet, six inches wide, which neither remain in any one municipality for more than 45 days and are not located on a rented campsite, from property taxation. But, so-called "park models," wider that eight feet, six inches, would remain liable to property tax. Recreational vehicles, registered or not, that are stored on a campground throughout the year would also be exempt from property taxation as long as they are not kept on a particular campsite or occupied.
The exemption from property tax shall not apply to any deck, porch, outbuilding or other accessory structure attached to recreational vehicle.
Campground owners would be required to provide notice to the owners of recreational vehicles liable to property tax, who would be billed directly by the city or town. Campground owners would not be liable for the collection or payment of taxes.
The amendment effectively treats those recreational vehicles liable to taxation as a species of manufactured housing, which apparently is a source of concern to the campground owners. However, by doing so the amendment relieves the campground owners of any responsibility for unpaid taxes due on units left on their property.
The Municipal and County Government Committee is scheduled to vote on the amendment and the bill on Tuesday, April 15 then report with the recommendation of the majority to the full House. Since the bill bears on taxation, if it passes the House it will likely be referred to the Ways and Means Committee, which will report back to the House for a second vote.
If the amended bill clears these hurdles, the Senate, which adopted the bill in its original form, will be asked to concur with the bill as amended by the House or to request a committee of conference to resolve the differences between the two chambers.