Grand list: Tax base grows almost 1%

A nearly 1% increase in the town’s $4.7-billion tax base will give budget-makers an additional $1,253,000 to spend before taxes have to be increased next year.

Ridgefield’s grand list of taxable properties went up $46,946,818, or 0.99037%, and now totals $4,787,232,154, according to Assessor Al Garzi.

“We always want our grand list to increase as much as possible, because it represents additional revenue based on the growth of the community,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.

“The 0.99% increase yields about $1,250,00 in revenue.”

If the town departments kept with the state-ordered 2.5% spending cap, and the school board approved the 3.48% increase that Superintendent Karen Baldwin has requested — which would keep the increase under the 2.5% cap once special education is excluded — the currently proposed town and school spending increase would be about $4 million, Marconi estimated.

The $1,253,000 revenue increase provided by the growth of the tax base would cover about 30% of a $4-million spending increase.

But Marconi offered a slightly more conservative estimate.

“Approximately 25% of our increased spending is covered by the increase in the grand list,” he said.

Garzi released details this week of the new grand list — dated to October 2016 and which will support town and school spending in the 2017-18 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

The taxable property in the grand list is classified in three categories:

  • Real estate, always the largest by far, totals $4,438,968,797, an increase of      $48,675,410.
  • Motor vehicles in town are now worth $247,398,242, up $1,527,589.
  • And “personal property” — which consists of business machines, equipment and furniture — is valued at $100,865,115. That’s a decrease of $3,256,181.

By state law, the business equipment that makes up the “personal property” category is depreciated at a rate of 10% a year for taxing purposes. So the roughly $100-million account would need to add $10 million to “break even,” Garzi said. It added about $6.8 million in new value, reducing the loss to about $3.2 million with the depreciation factored in.

“The personal property grand list decreased, on a net basis, by $3.2 million in assessed value to $100,000,000,” Garzi said. “Although this area experienced strong growth, it wasn’t enough to offset the built-in state-mandated depreciation of 10% annually.”

Condos, Boehringer

The $48,675,410 increase in the real estate assessments on the grand list “represents $75,000,000 in current market activity,” Garzi said.

That’s because property is assessed at 70% of market value, by the standards of the last townwide revaluation, which was in 2012. So the increase in assessed value equals about 66% of the market value of the added property.

New, high-end condominium and townhouse units are contributing to the larger tax base.

“Fueling this growth was the new home development of The Elms on Main Street and the 77 Sunset Lane new home development on Sunset Lane,” Garzi said.

“Also adding to the real estate growth was the large number of additions and homes being remodeled.”

Another factor helping the town’s nearly 1% grand list increase is that two more projects in Boehringer Ingelheim’s multimillion-dollar expansion program have come off the seven-year 85% tax abatements granted to the company’s new construction. Townspeople approved the abatement program in 2007 — when the expansion was in the planning stages — with a goal of keeping the pharmaceutical firm, the town’s largest taxpayer, at its Ridgebury location, where it has been since the 1970s.

“A large portion of the real estate growth was related to Boehringer Ingelheim’s abatement program ending for Boehringer Ingelheim’s Building 10 and utility line relocation project associated with Building 10,” Garzi said.

New cars

The $1,527,589 increase to the motor vehicle portion of the grand list included “new car purchases and vehicle trade-ups,” according to Garzi.

“The average car value listed on the new grand list is $23,500,” he added.

The value of business equipment taxed as “personal property” was reduced by state policies, Garzi said.

There are “machinery and equipment exemptions” granted by the state — mostly on new equipment, to encourage business to retool and grow in Connecticut — and they reduced the town’s taxable “personal property” listings by $70,596,643.

If taxed, that would be enough to generate $1.9 million in revenue, the assessor said.

Garzi added that the state had dropped its policy of reimbursing towns for these missed revenues.

“This state-mandated revenue exemption was previously reimbursed annually by the state of Connecticut and no longer is,” he said.  

There are other tax-exempt properties — church land and buildings used for religious purposes, private schools’ educational property.

“Exempt properties and state-mandated exemptions made up $520,823,066 in assessed

value, or 10% of the grand list,” Garzi said.

The grand list will look quite different next year.

“This is the last completed grand list before the state-mandated revaluation for the 2017 grand list,” Garzi said. “Reassessment notices for the Oct. 1, 2017, grand list will be mailed to property owners in December of 2017.”