Revaluation: Grand list assessments drop 20%

Residents will receive their new property assessments in the mail this week as the town’s revaluation is nearing what Town Assessor John Ford describes as its “final stretch.”

Mr. Ford told the finance board on Monday that because of the overall changes in assessments, there will be a 20% drop in the town’s real estate portion of the total grand list, the amount of decrease he expected. The grand list is an inventory of the town’s residential property, personal property and motor vehicle assessments.

The town’s revaluation got under way in February. The revaluation is a process that will determine the market value of every property in town as of Oct. 1, 2012, and become effective for taxing for the 2013-14 fiscal year. Assessments are based on 70% of this fair market value.

Average residential assessment

The average residential assessment dropped 21%, said Mr. Ford. Half of the residences in town will see a drop in assessed value of between 19% and 23%, he said.

The very high-end houses did not come down as much as Mr. Ford expected. The more moderate houses came down substantially, he said.

“People need to understand that just because their assessments came down, it doesn’t mean their taxes will go down. The Board of Finance has to adjust the mill rate according to budget needs,” Mr. Ford said earlier in the day. The impact of a new assessment on a homeowner won’t be known until spring when the town goes through its budget process, he added.

Assuming there is no increase in the budget, “if the overall drop is 20% [in the grand list], and the home assessment dropped 19% to 20%, then the taxes would stay roughly the same,” said Bill Alvarez, board chairman. “If a house’s value goes down 24%, then there would be a decrease in taxes. If an assessment dropped 15%, then taxes would go up.”

Mr. Ford said the town’s drop in assessments is in around the same range as Newtown’s. Newtown is also revaluing this year.

When homeowners get their assessment notices, they will see their current and new assessments.

Informal hearings

Informal hearings on assessments will be conducted by Vision Government Solutions, the firm hired by the town to work with Mr. Ford on revaluation. The hearings will begin at town hall the week of Dec. 6 and continue into the following week, said Mr. Ford.

“You may review your new assessment on the Vision Government Solutions website, www.vgsi.com. This site will allow inquiry access to the assessor’s database, including value summary, property data, and general revaluation information. Property owners wishing to have their new assessments reviewed with a representative of Vision Government Solutions may do so by scheduling an appointment online,” said Mr. Ford in his notification.

For those without access to a computer, appointments may be made by calling Vision Government Solutions at 1-888-844-4300 between the hours of 9 and 4, Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays.

“Please book your appointment within seven days of receipt of this letter. Please do not call the assessor’s office to schedule appointments,” Mr. Ford said in his notification.

Board of Assessment Appeals

Property owners wishing to appeal their assessments after the informal hearing process must file a written appeal to the town’s  Board of Assessment Appeals on its prescribed appeal form on or before Feb. 20, 2013. The forms will be available in the assessor’s office at town hall on Feb. 1. Board of Assessment Appeals hearings are held in March.

State law mandates a revaluation every five years, and a full physical revaluation every 10 years. Redding is doing just an update this year.

There are five major phases to a municipal revaluation, including data verification, market analysis, valuation, field review, and informal hearings.

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