In a good news/bad news scenario, Norwalk homeowners are taking less of the hit for next year's tax burden as the city's latest property revaluation shows that residential holdings have lost value, while commercial property has risen -- ever so slightly.
While preliminary results of the citywide re-assessment conducted this year by Vision Government Solutions Inc. show that 81 percent of all residential properties have dropped in value since the last revaluation in 2008, the value of commercial property is up 1 percent, Finance Director Thomas Hamilton said.
The value of condominiums and two- to four-family residential properties has declined substantially more than single-family homes, with 63 percent of residential properties assigned lower values of 9 percent or more, he said.
That 9 percent figure is the "break-even point," he said, meaning those whose value has dropped 9 percent or more will be favorably affected by revaluation. In other words, they will pay less next year in local property taxes than they would have paid without a revaluation, he said.
Rowayton residents will be paying more, as values in the Sixth Taxing District have fared the best among Norwalk neighborhoods, registering a 4.9 percent drop in assessed value. Values in South Norwalk, the Second Taxing District, dropped 16 percent, the most of any area.
"Rowayton is carrying the burden of Norwalk, and it's unfairly carrying the burden of Norwalk," Kip Ford said, drawing applause from some of the about 50 people who attended a Monday informational hearing on the new revaluation figures at Brien McMahon High School.
That Norwalk's property values have dropped is no surprise, Hamilton said. Stamford did a revaluation last year and found that property values fell 25 percent, he said. Westport did one two years ago, with a 13 percent drop, he said, and Fairfield's revaluation three years ago showed values 11 percent lower.
About 1 percent of Norwalk's residential properties increased in value, he said, while 18 percent stayed the same.
Real property reflects a $1.5 billion decline in total market value, or minus 9.05 percent, as a result of this year's revaluation, Hamilton said. Assuming there is no change in motor vehicle or personal property assessments, he said, the city's overall grand list would decline by 8.1 percent.
"A revaluation doesn't increase the city's revenue, but what it does do is redistribute the burden of taxes," Hamilton said. "It redistributes the burden of taxes with the objective of making the values equitable so that everyone is paying the same percentage in taxes as a percentage of the market value of their property."
City officials have just begun compiling a proposed budget for the 2014-15 fiscal, which will be financed by taxes generated by the newly set property values. In February, the Common Council will set a preliminary cap for the budget, and finalize it in May. Tax bills will go out in July.
Despite the lower grand list, officials expect an increase in the budget. For instance, Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera's first draft of the school district's next operating budget is 3.6 percent higher than the 2013-14 budget, a fact attributable largely to a 4 percent pay raise for the teachers, a contractual obligation.
At the informational meeting, Rowayton residents questioned the process by which their homes were evaluated.
There have been very few sales on which to base an analysis, they said, contending that makes the figures an invalid sample in statistical terms. Read Full Article
One person said a revaluation inspector came to their house, walked in the front door, stood in the hallway, looked around and left. Two people said, "Me, too."
"This business about making an internal inspection is hogwash. They don't do it," Robert Duckworth said. "You've got to realize this makes us very suspicious about the government. They say they are inspecting and they aren't. So what else are we supposed to assume they are doing wrong?"
Ronald Coralian said his next-door neighbor's house had been for sale for eight to nine months at a price of $538,000, but Vision Government Solutions had appraised it at $589,000.
One man said he had bought his house within the last year. The valuation given by Vision is 30 percent higher than what he had paid, he said.
"Well that happens," Assessor Michael Stewart said. "You're a very shrewd negotiator or we missed something. ... Not every single value that we have that came out of this valuation is not something that the Assessor's Office agrees with. That is why we are reviewing it."
The city is offering residents the opportunity for a hearing to challenge the new revlation figures through the first week in January.
Field cards, which carry a detailed list of factors that affect a property's value -- such as location, size, quality of construction, age of improvements -- are not ready for residents to inspect, Stewart said. That's a change from prior revaluations.
That's because the cards have not yet been finalized, he said.
"This is a whole new process that we are doing and the software is new even to Vision," he said. "So we are still trying to get the best product that we can out to you before we release it. But we are giving you the things that you need to decide whether you need to take a closer look at your value."