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Revalued tax base shrinks $1 billion

The town’s tax base has lost nearly $1 billion in value — close to 18% — as a result of the recently completed reassessment, Assessor Al Garzi told the finance board Tuesday night.

The new Grand List of taxable property is $4,618,458,472, compared to a previous Grand List of $5,602,283,978, according to Mr. Garzi.

That’s a decline of $983,825,506 or 17.56%.

Taxes are likely to go up some next year due to changes in the town budget, but the revaluation is designed to be “revenue neutral” process — its purpose is to rebalance the tax burden.

With the revaluation, the 18% average decline in  assessment functions as a dividing line between property owners who will be hit a little harder or a little softer by the changes come as a result of the budgeting.

“If you went down 18%, your tax bill is going to be even,” Finance Board Chairman Dave Ulmer said Tuesday night.

Those whose assessments fell less than the 18% average will hit a little harder by next year’s taxes, those with assessments dropping more than 18% will feel the tax rate a little less.

“For the homeowner ‘Am I going to be paying more or not?’ is really based on how your house fared in the real estate market,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.

The current $127-million budget requires taxation at a mill rate of 20.37. To support the same spending next year with the new lower Grand List would require a higher tax rate, what Mr. Garzi describes as “a break even mill rate” of 24.71.

In an analysis that factors out the revaluing or properties, the Grand List has shown about 0.75% in actual growth — new construction, automobile and business equipment purchases.

“Had we not had a reassessment, you’re due about three quarters of a percent,” Mr. Garzi told the finance board Tuesday. “It’s about three quarters of a percent of new growth, under the old system.”

In all Mr. Garzi and his staff revalued some 9,500 properties over more than a year.

They also calculated new assessments for all the motor vehicles in town and business equipment which is taxed as personal property.

Finance board member Jill Bornstein asked Mr. Garzi how homeowners had reacted.

With property values down an average of 18% since the last revaluation in 2007, people had some mental adjustments to make.

“That was hard for all of us to accept,” Mr. Garzi said.

“It went pretty well,” he added. “We have about 15 appeals right now. It’s a very difficult time to figure out what everything’s worth.”

There were informal hearings all through January

“We might have had 300 people go to hearings,” Mr. Garzi said.

“More people [were] thinking they should have been higher,” he said. “There were some things that needed to be changed, and we changed them.”

Finance board member Paul Sutherland had a hard time imagining property owners pushing for adjustments to assessments that would lead to higher tax bills.

“Did people really request that their valuations go up?” he asked. “Why would you do that?”

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