GILMANTON — A local man has taken the town to court, arguing that he should be exempt from paying that part of the property tax which goes to fund public schools because he has no children in the school system.
Joseph S. Haas Jr., of 67 Mountain Road, who has a record of challenging legal processes in New Hampshire, claims Gilmanton owes him $12,952, which he says is money earmarked for education which he has paid over the years, according to court records.
As in every community in the state, Gilmanton’s property tax bill is comprised of a state tax that helps fund public schools, the local school tax that funds the rest of the cost operating the Gilmanton school system, the county portion of the tax which goes toward the costs of operating jails, the courts, and some community services, and the municipal services portion which pays for emergency services like police and fire, road maintenance, and other town expenses.
In his suit, Haas states he notified the town in writing last October that he was challenging the legality of having to pay the school taxes. This past February he applied for an abatement on his property tax, arguing the same grounds.
The town rejected Haas’s request for an abatement, saying he failed to show that his property was disproportionately assessed, or that he was unable to pay the amount he was billed.
Haas, who is acting as his own attorney, and representatives from the town are expected to go before a judge in Belknap Superior Court this afternoon to discuss the issues in the case and set schedules for exchanging legal information and known facts, and other case preparation, including additional conferences with the court, mediation sessions, or efforts to settle the case prior to trial. Haas is requesting the case be tried in front of a jury.
Haas has asked that Judge James D. O’Neill III, the only judge who sits full-time in Belknap Superior Court, be barred from hearing the case, arguing O’Neill is not impartial, according to the suit.
In a formal rebuttal filed with the court, Gilmanton’s attorney, Justin L. Pasay, states Haas’s suit “bears a resemblance to matters indicated against and the (state Board of Tax and Land Appeals) which revolve around the core argument that the towns’ assessment of state and local education taxes are illegal and/or unconstitutional, all of which to the town’s knowledge have been dismissed.”
Haas likens the education taxes embedded in the property tax to “theft by extortion.” He argues that the state is the entity which is required to pay to fund a constitutionally adequate education, not local taxpayers.
Haas is a well-known critic of the state’s legal system.
Just last month Haas persuaded the Ossipee Select Board to no longer collect state or local school taxes on the grounds that funding education is the state’s responsibility. That action has prompted has prompted the Governor Wentworth Regional School District, to which Ossipee belongs, to sue the town for failing to pay its bills.
Haas has also compiled a series of allegations that he threatened people, including high-ranking officials, according to several state news outlets.
Haas has a trust fund from his late parents which allows him to pursue his legal endeavors, he said in a March 2017 interview with The Laconia Daily Sun.
He was charged in 2004 with improper influence for allegedly sending an email to then-Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, in which he threatened her family and demanded she drop a case against another anti-government activist, The Associated Press reported at the time.
A Merrimack County Superior Court dismissed the charge against Haas, ruling the statute was unconstitutionally broad, according to a story published at the time in the Telegraph of Nashua.
In June 2007, Haas was charged with misdemeanor criminal threatening for sending an email to Lebanon City Councilor Terri Dudley, in which he wrote, “Wise up or die,” The Associated Press reported.
Among the charges Haas has filed against various town and state officials is a 2012 case he brought against former Grafton County Superior Court Clerk Robert Muh, accusing him of “official oppression.”
The charge was eventually dismissed, as was an “official oppression” charge he brought against then Gov. Maggie Hassan in October 2014.