The five-year cycle of revaluations for Connecticut towns has found a larger percentage of revaluations then normal in 2013. Forty six towns are in the process of revaluation for the 2013 grand list (in comparison there were 39 revaluations in 2012). Litchfield County leads the way with 11 communities going through revaluation, followed by Hartford County with 9 towns. Fairfield, New London and Windham Counties each have 5 towns going through revaluation, while Middlesex and New Haven County have 4 towns a piece. Tolland County has the least number of towns with only 3 going through revaluation this year.
Although the State requires revaluations every 5 years, several towns exceeded that number. Six towns are revaluating after 6 years – Eastford, Guilford, Killingly, Madison, Middletown and Norwalk. Windham took even longer with their previous revaluation in 2005 meaning it has been 8 years between revaluations.
If the trend over the past few years continues, two things that will occur. People will be pleasantly surprised to see that their home assessments are lower than their previous one. That joy will wear off in June when they find that mill rates have increased to offset the lower assessments meaning higher car taxes and still no decrease in property taxes. Towns that went through a revaluation in 2012 found their 2013 mill rate increased by an average of almost 5 mills. This is in sharp contrast to the towns that did not go through revaluation which found an average mill rate increase of .62 mills.
The declining assessments due to the real estate markets fall can make it harder on homeowners to know if their new assessment is fair. In previous times a large increase would convince homeowners to view the assessment closely, looking for errors, and possible over assessment. However, with many owners seeing the assessment decline they may just accept it as a happy windfall, not realizing that their assessments accuracy is just as important as before. Since in all likelihood that lower assessment will be hit by a much higher mill rate, an unfair assessment may mean the homeowner gets penalized even more.
It is important for homeowners to look over the new assessment and make sure there are no factual errors. Revaluations may mistakenly add rooms, square footage or other physical errors, which result in inaccurate assessments. Condition rankings may not accurately reflect the property, or other physical problems ignored. These are things that a homeowner can easily check on their own just by looking at the field card. However, other calculation errors may be harder to discover. A house may be inaccurately assessed versus comparable properties. Since the driving force between assessment valuation is that the properties must be value equity, if your property is “over valued” versus comparable houses in your market then you are paying an unfair tax burden.
It is important to look at the revaluation information as soon as you get it and if you think your assessment is wrong or otherwise inequitable then you need to deal with it immediately as appeals have to be filed by February 20th. After that time, even if the assessment is obviously incorrect, nothing can be done until the following year. For more information on revaluations in a declining market and challenging your assessment please check out these articles.