Several Dozen Municipalities Expected To Delay Revaluations
May 27, 2009
Homeowners in New Haven and several dozen other towns and cities could get a break on tax bills as early as July through a new state law allowing municipalities to delay revaluation or the phase-in of higher property assessments set by recent revaluations.
New Haven — where aldermen this week are expected to pass a proposed budget reflecting a delay in revaluation — is likely to be the first beneficiary of the law, passed by the General Assembly and signed May 15 by Gov. M. Jodi Rell. It gives towns and cities the option through 2011 to halt revaluation and defer the effect that recent revaluations have on property assessments.
Supporters said the new law protects recession-strapped homeowners from taxes based on higher property assessments that do not reflect actual values in the still-falling housing market.
New Haven's proposed 2009-10 budget reflects a delay in the phase-in of new assessments from its 2006 revaluation, completed just as housing prices peaked. It also freezes the city tax rate at the current 42.21 mills.
The postponing of the phase-in enables residential property owners to receive "basically the same tax bills they got this year," mayoral aide Jessica Mayorga said Tuesday. " Mayor John DeStefano really feels this is not a good time to ask residents to do more."
It makes sense for local governments to consider a delay in any revision of property assessments until the economy can rebound, said Kevin T. Maloney, a spokesman for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, which represents 144 of the state's 169 towns and cities and which lobbied for the new law.
Local governments facing revaluation in 2009 and 2010 will save a total of $9.4 million by taking advantage of the new law and delaying the work, Maloney said.
West Hartford's town council will probably be asked June 9 to consider delaying a planned phase-in of assessments from the 2006 revaluation that increased property assessments by an average of 70 percent.
"It's up to the council. I will be proposing it June 9 for their consideration," interim Town Manager Ron Van Winkle said Tuesday. "If approved, it would mean that everyone's taxes would go up the same percentage. People would be paying the same percentage increase as their neighbors."
Windsor has already passed its 2009-10 budget and will probably allow a revaluation phase-in to begin next month as planned, Town Manager Peter Souza said. It's possible that the town council will use the new state law to delay phase-ins in 2010 and 2001, he said.
But assessors whose job it is to update municipal grand lists of all taxable properties don't consider it wise to ever postpone revaluation, said Waterbury Assessor David M. Dietsch, the president of the state's municipal assessors' association, which opposed the new law.
Any delay in revaluation will put assessed values "out of whack," he said. "The whole idea is equality. The more you do revaluation, the more we like it. It aligns values to be fair and equitable."
Delays also can keep car taxes and commercial and business property taxes higher than they would be otherwise, he said, because it postpones adjustments reflecting longer-term increases in housing values.
"Throwing out a revaluation that's been completed doesn't help," Dietsch said. "Remember, there has to be a revaluation eventually."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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