Construction in Ridgefield’s diverse housing market helped boost the town’s tax base by close one percent — enough to cover more than $1 million in increased town and school spending next year.

The town’s grand list of taxable properties increased by nearly $44 million to reach close to $4.9 billion in assessed value, according to Town Assessor Al Garzi.

“The change will produce an increase in revenue of $1,232,000,” Garzi said.

“It was almost one percent, and I think we’re fortunate to have such a diverse housing market,” Garzi told The Press.

“Our market’s diverse, price range-wise, so we have activity in all areas — not a lot, but enough to get us almost to 1 percent,” Garzi said.

Garzi said the increase of a little less than one percent was better growth than town officials have been seeing lately.

“The increase is more than we have experienced in the last few years. As a result of our housing market being so diverse, we had growth in many areas,” Garzi said.

It was also a pleasant surprise for finance board Chairman Dave Ulmer.

“That is a bit more than I expected, which is good,” Ulmer said.

In exact numbers, the new grand list totals $4,883,864,180, up $43,841,724 from the previous year’s list. Although it will finance the 2020-21 fiscal year, which starts in July, the new tax base is described as the “October 2019 grand list” — reflecting the cutoff date used in putting it together.

Buildings and land

Real estate, of course, makes up the vast majority of the tax base and the increase.

Real estate accounts for $4.5 billion of the nearly $4.9 billion grand list.

The net value of 9,769 real estate holdings in Ridgefield totals $4,520,079,882, according to Garzi. That’s up $38,089,022 from the previous year, he said.

“The real estate portion of the grand list increased due to several in-town increased density projects either coming to completion or under construction,” Garzi said.

“The commercial portion of the real estate grand list saw an assisted living facility being constructed and some small improvements to commercial buildings,” he added. “Contributing also to the real estate increase was the end of one of the seven-year tax abatements given to Boehringer Ingelheim for improvements made to the Ridgefield campus,” Garzi said.

There is one additional abatement granted to Boehringer still remaining, and due to come off the books in a couple of years, he said.

Garzi said the real estate portion of the grand list also increased “a large number” of remodeling projects and additions to existing homes, as well as “small number” of residential subdivisions and new homes under construction.

Fewer cars

Motor vehicles make up the second biggest category of Ridgefield’s grand list.

There are 21,203 motor vehicles on the new grand list, worth just under $255,601,000, according to Garzi. That’s an increase of a little over $3,436,000.

While they’re worth more — an average of $17,225, up from $16,825, according to Garzi, there are fewer motor vehicles on Ridgefield’s grand list this year — though the 21,000 vehicles still works out to virtually one car for every adult in town.

“A loss of 212 vehicles,” Garzi said.

“Last year, we had 150 less, this year we had 200 less. I think it has to do with registration with the DMV,” he said, referring to the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

“It happened to Danbury and Brookfield as well.”

The DMV updates the list twice a year, he said.

Many people self-report when a car isn’t on the tax list.

“We’ve had a bunch of people come in in July,” Garzi said.

“When they don’t get a bill, most people come in.

“We eventually get the cars on the list. When we find out we can add them by a certificate of correction. We’ve been adding quite a few after the fact.

“It caught my eye,” he said of the declining number of motor vehicles registered.

“I was concerned. It’s something that we’re looking into.”

Business equipment

The smallest category on the town’s grand list is “personal property” — which is business equipment, not art and jewelry, as the name might suggest.

This category is valued at a little over $108,123,000 — up by over $2,020,000, according to Garzi.

The taxable business property on the town’s grand list “continues to be negatively impacted by legislation passed in 2011,” Garzi said.

“Business equipment utilized in manufacturing and bio-tech equipment that was previously exempt and reimbursed to the Town of Ridgefield by the State of Connecticut is now completely exempt and not reimbursed,” he said. “...The revenue loss in this area is $1,983,609.”

Garzi also noted another area of lost revenue — back in real estate.

“There were 723 tax-exempt properties totaling $516,072,815,” he said, “reducing the revenue picture by some $14,511,967 or three mills, roughly 10 percent of our revenue.”