Questions and Answers about Property Revaluation

Why Conduct A Revaluation For 2004?       

The Town of Branford is acting under the law that was in effect prior to October 1, 2004 which required quadrennial revaluations.  Branford was scheduled to complete a revaluation for October 1, 2000, but did not implement it until October 1, 2002.  as Branford was in the process of revaluation when the law was changed the town then decided to complete the process for October 1, 2004.  Under the current law, Branford’s next revaluation is scheduled for completion on October 1, 2009. 

Secondly, It is the Law.  The State of Connecticut,  under the provisions of Section 12-62 of the General Statutes, requires a revaluation of all real estate every five years.  Legislation mandates that Branford commences it quintessential cycle for the October 1, 2004 Grand List.  This Law was enacted by the 2004 General Assembly. 

There is a growing awareness that the local property taxes have become a significant part of the expenses in owning property.  Keeping this in mind, revaluations are required to insure property owners of uniformity in property valuations.  A revaluation sets new assessed values on a current basis, for use by the Assessor.

A successful revaluation requires a significant amount of time spent on careful research to assure that the new values are accurate and that all property owners will pay ONLY their FAIR SHARE of the property tax burden.

 

What Is Meant By “Revaluation?”

The revaluation program involves the reappraisal of all real property in the town in order to bring about uniformity in property valuations and to assure all property owners that they are paying only their fair share of the cost of community services.  Revaluation is NOT intended to raise revenues.  Its purpose is to value all properties by the same standards at the same point in time.

 

Why Is Revaluation Needed?

It has been two years since the last revaluation of all real estate in Branford.  Meanwhile constantly changing economic conditions have caused inequities to develop.  The solution to this problem is to reappraise all real estate bringing assessment records up to date with present day values.

 

What Kind Of Inequities Exist Now?

Just the normal “hills and valleys” which occur in any community over a period of time.  Neighborhoods change, and the economic climate changes, meaning that some properties have become overvalued or undervalued when compared to comparable market properties.  The revaluation returns properties to current market values and to the fair-share basis. 

                               

What Is Fair Market Value?

A legal standard defined by the courts is the price established between a willing buyer and a willing seller, taking into consideration all the uses to which the property is adapted.

 

Who Determines The Value Of My Property?

People do.  You, and the person who sold it to you, and the person who is willing to buy it from you create the value.  People make the market, not the Assessor.  During a revaluation, it is the Assessor’s and the Assessor’s staff’s job to research and discover values.

A single property sale transaction, however, would not be the sole determination of your property value.  All valid sales in a given neighborhood are used as guidelines.  In effect, a revaluation does the same thing that you would do as a prospective buyer, by examining all the features of a property before applying values.

A few of the other factors considered are: local market conditions, size and quality of construction, age of building, improvements to or deterioration of neighborhood, zoning, and so on.

 

Isn’t Fair Market Value What I Paid For My Property?

Not always.  Some people will pay more than fair market value for their property.  Others may have bought their property at a bargain price, and others may have purchased the property years ago when prices and values were considerably different.  The true test is what your property is worth in October 2004 in comparison to other like properties.

 

Can My Share Of The Tax Burden Go Down?

Yes.  If the market values in your area have not risen as much as in other areas since the last revaluation, or , if your property is currently overvalued when compared with like properties, your share of the tax burden would be

reduced as a result of revaluation.

 

Hasn’t Inflation Driven Most Values Up?

In general, yes.  But that doesn’t mean that your taxes will go up proportionately.  In fact, your share of taxes might not change significantly, even with inflation.  What you have to remember is that your property is compared with all  properties.  Inflation affects just about everybody, so most of these values will have risen too.  The question to ask yourself is, “How do I compare with everyone else?”

In all likelihood, your new assessment notice may be higher than your present assessment, but it will not tell you whether your next tax bill will go up, be about the same, or go down.

 

When Will The New Assessments Be Effective?

The new assessments will be placed on the October 1, 2004 Grand List from which tax bill will be generated and due on July 1, 2005.

 

If My Reassessment Notice Doesn’t Tell How Much I Will Have To Pay, Or How High Taxes Might Go, What Good Is It?

The primary purpose of revaluation notices is to show the assessment determined so that you can have the opportunity to review and insure that no errors have been made.  Questions of value can be reviewed, explained, and justified.  Adjustments, corrections, and concerns will be noted.

Remember, a revaluation establishes and addresses value, not taxes.  Revaluations are important because the amount of municipal taxes is based on the assessed value of property-formula: Assessment x Mill Rate=Taxes.

 

How Are Mill Rates Established?

Except where otherwise determined by law, mill rates are established by dividing the budget to be raised by local taxes by the total taxable assessments in the town.  This is determined by the Board of Finance and the R.T.M.

 

If Assessment Values Go Up, Won’t My Taxes?

In bringing property values up to date, there is an increase in the total assessments on the Grand List for the town.  If the assessments increase, but the mill rate stays the same, then your taxes will go up.

With the increase to the Grand List, Branford’s governing body can reduce the mill rate lessening any required tax increase.  In other words, the mill rate would fall by a proportionate amount, assuming budgets pre and post revaluation were identical.  The point being that a balanced budget is all that is required; no more than that.

 

Why Can’t Someone Tell Me What The New Rate Will Be And What My Taxes Will Be?

Until a total Grand List, including all new values, is completed, and a new budget is adopted, no one can say what the mill rate or your tax bill will be.

A fact to consider, however, is that with the downward adjustment of the mill rate at revaluation, the tax bill on motor vehicles decreases.  Remember, since the 2002 revaluation the real estate assessments have been 70% of 2002 market value, and have remained that way for the past two years until the 2004 revaluation.  But this is not the case for motor vehicles.  A motor vehicle is annually assessed at 70% of current average retail value.  When the mill rate is reduced, one will pay less in Branford on motor vehicles.

If with the updated assessment on real estate and the downward adjustment of the mill rate, there is an increase in the real estate tax bill, then just shift the savings on the motor vehicle tax bills over to the real estate tax.  In other words, consider the total municipal tax bill-real estate and motor vehicles-and then look at the impact of revaluation.

 

Who Initially Sets My Assessment And What Can I Do If I Think It Is Wrong?

The Revaluation Company arrives at the assessed value.  If you believe that your assessment is wrong, the first step is to contact the revaluation office.  A meeting or informal hearing will be necessary.  You would then be given an appointed time to come into the revaluation office.

 

This is the proper time and place to correct any errors and miscalculations.

A member of the revaluation company’s staff will review your property records, and necessary adjustments will be made if you show that an error has been made in describing your property, which significantly affects its value.

If there is a significant difference between the data on your property records and the state of your property, the revaluation company will schedule an inspection and review of your property.  In some cases, where the person appealing presents factual evidence, an adjustment can be made without additional inspection and review.

 

If After The Informal Meeting I Still Disagree With The Assessment, What Is The Next Step?

The next step is a formal hearing before the Board of Assessment Appeals.  Make inquiry at the Assessor’s Office for the meeting dates and proper procedure to follow in order to have an appointment with the board.

Any evidence that you may have affecting your assessment should be presented to the Board of Assessment Appeals.

Should a disagreement remain after the Board of Assessment Appeals hearing, an appeal to the courts under Section 12-117A of the Connecticut State Statutes is the next and last step.

 

Do I Still Have To Pay My Taxes If I Appeal Under Section 12-117A?

Yes, definitely.  Section 12-117A requires payment of at least 75% of taxes due, or 90% if the assessment exceeds $500,000 even if appealed.  Otherwise, penalties and interest are added to unpaid taxes due.  Any judgment in your favor may  require a refund or credit of taxes paid in excess of any reduced assessment.

 

Is There Any Disadvantage To Me If I Appeal?

No, In fact, the Assessor’s Office encourages you to review your assessments and appeal if you sincerely question the value.  The Assessor’s Office will see that each taxpayer is satisfied within the limits set by state statute, and at the same time assure that assessments are on a fair share basis.  In the great majority of cases, when the Assessor finds that the taxpayer is right, an adjustment is made.  The Assessor would like to satisfy each property owner, but has a duty to all taxpayers in the city to be fair and equitable, and work within the guidelines of Connecticut State Statutes.

 

What About Exemptions and Elderly Programs?

State Statutes provide exemptions for veterans, the blind, and totally disabled.  If you now have an exemption, it will be automatically deducted at tax billing time.  For those who do not have one, but feel that they could qualify for an exemption, make inquiry at Assessor’s Office.

Those elderly on the Homeowners Program will not lose their benefits at revaluation, as long as they meet the requirements of the program and maintain the biennial filing.  For information  on how to get on the Homeowners Program, one can call the Assessor’s Office.

 

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