2012 MS-1: Ghost Protocol

The saga continues… Frequent and careful readers of this blog and/or newsletter distribution will recall that last week, in announcing the upcoming Assessing update, we stated that the “DRA did not make any significant changes to the format of the [MS-1] report itself for 2012.” Having not received any changes from the DRA, we went ahead and shipped the update on Monday. Turns out there’s more to the story now…

We originally contacted the DRA several times over recent months to inquire about any MS-1 changes for 2012. We were eventually told that they were waiting to determine if there would be any minor changes but that they didn’t expect there to be any. When we tried to follow up again (mid July and again at the end of July) we got a return call (first week of August) from an affiliated UNH employee who was helping the DRA with the implementation of a specification for automating the process for submitting data.

We suggested that if, in the first week of August, they had yet to finalize the methodology by which they were accepting data it would be difficult, if not impossible, for Avitar to implement and distribute the changes so quickly to all of our client municipalities. We were told at that time by the representative from UNH working with the DRA that, in recognition of the timeline and the fact that there were no substantive changes to the format of the report, the DRA would by necessity be accepting last year’s format.

We volunteered that we would try to do as much as possible once they could provide us with a final version. We were told we would receive it soon. Ten days later, when we had yet to receive a new report or any notification, we elected to distribute the update given that there were no forthcoming substantive changes. While we ourselves weren’t making any format changes to the MS-1, we nonetheless wanted to distribute the update to our users as it included a few minor improvements to the validation and reporting of certain Charitable, Religious, and Educational exemptions.

But that was last week. Today we heard through the grapevine that the DRA had indicated to some communities that it would require that MS-1 information be submitted in a form and/or fashion that today, two weeks from the September 1st deadline, have yet to be finalized. We contacted the DRA this morning in reference to this and restated our position that it was unreasonable for them to be both unable to produce the changes in a timely fashion and unwilling to accept last year’s format.

Shortly after noon today Gary spoke with Steve Hamilton, DRA Director of Property Appraisals. Steve was very understanding and stated that, in light of the issues involved, the DRA would accept the MS-1 Report in the format currently generated by Avitar Assessing. Note that this is a relatively recent development so if you hear anything to the contrary from your DRA representative you can request that they confirm with the Director or refer them to us.

So here’s what we know going forward:

  • The current MS-1 format generated by your software will be accepted by the DRA.
  • Any new format should be available on Friday, August 17th.  From what we hear, the only substantive change applies to municipalities with pollution control exemptions on utility properties.  If this includes you, look for a separate blog post/email in the next day on how to properly handle those using the format you have now.
  • Once we receive the update, we’ll determine if we can implement and test the changes in a reasonably short period of time.  If we can, we’ll turn them around as quickly as possible and let you know when any subsequent update is available for download.
  • In the meantime, if you are already at or near the completion of your MS-1 process for the year then do not panic — the current MS-1 format generated by your software will be accepted by the DRA.  Let us know if you are told otherwise.

We apologize for any confusion, but we’ve been in largely the same fog as you.  We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.

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