Westbrook Residents Petition for Gradual Revaluation

WESTBROOK – Hoping to take some of the sting out of the upcoming revaluation, a number of residents here are asking that the process be done in phases.

The town’s next revaluation is not scheduled until 2009, but a new state law allows municipalities to have it take place over a five-year period so that property owners are not hit with a big increase all at once.

More than 300 signatures have petitioned selectmen for this phased-in approach.

Jerry Dyer, president of the Council of Beaches, said in the last reevaluation many residents in town were hit with 50 to 100 percent increases in the assessed value of their homes.

“This is not exclusively a beach people’s problem,” Dyer said, admitting the drastic increases in reevaluation are affecting the minority of Westbrook residents.

Properties experiencing the most dramatic increases in town typically are south of Route 1.

Dyer said the drastic increases in reevaluation were one of the main factors leading to the creation of the Save Westbrook watchdog group.

Dyer said at the Board of Selectmen meeting on September 7, First Selectman John Raffa was supportive of the phased-in revaluation proposal.

Raffa could be facing a drastic increase in reevaluation of his home as well since he lives close to the shoreline.

Dyer said state legislation allows municipalities several options for a phased-in reevaluation and said Raffa did not state at the meeting which options Westbrook would be considering.

According to the Office of Legislative Research, OLR, Public Act 06-176, signed into law this year, allows towns to divide an increased assessment by the number of years of the phase-in.

Towns have the option of phasing in the entire assessment increase or a portion of it.

For example, if a property is valued at $100,000 and the new value is $150,000 and a town decides to phase in the entire assessment increase and chooses a five year phase-in, the assessment would only increase by $10,000 a year.

Towns could choose to implement a percentage of the assessment increase immediately, which cannot be less than 25 percent, and phase in the remainder over five years.

If the same property is valued at $100,000 and the new value is $150,000, a town could require the homeowner to pay 50 percent, $25,000, and the other 50 percent in five yearly installments of $5,000.

OLR states that the other method of a revaluation phase in is based on a ratio between a property’s assessed value and its fair market value.

The assessed value is the portion of the fair market value subject to taxation, according to OLR.

By law, properties are assessed at 70 percent of their fair market value, a value which changes over time.

The different between the ratios before and after revaluation over five years could be phased in over five years.

State law formerly capped this type of revaluation to a four year period.

Another way towns could phase in revaluation, OLR states, is including all properties within a class with property classes consisting of residential, commercial, and vacant land.

Commercial properties under this definition would include apartments with at least five units, industrial property, and public utility property.

This last type of reevaluation works is dependent on either sales records for a class or enough sales within each class to estimate a rate of increase for the class.

In April, Gian-Carl Casa from the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities told members of the Connecticut General Assembly Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee that although changes in the reevaluation process are important, the real problem is overreliance of the property tax to pay for local public services.

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