DARIEN — It’s ‘reval’ time again.
The revaluation process, which is currently underway, analyzes all the taxable property in the town including real estate and motor vehicles to assess their fair market value.
This is a key part of establishing the mill rate as property taxes are the major source of revenue for the town, according to town Finance Director Jennifer Charneski. The data compiled from the revaluation this year will not come into play until Fiscal Year 2020. For Fiscal Year 2019, the tax rate will be based on the October 2017 Grand List.
The October 2017 Grand List jumped 0.90 percent, or $77,091,191, from the 2016 Grand List value. The 2017 Grand List for the town amounted to an assessed value of $8,598,603,870.
“Grand List growth is always a positive economic indicator for towns and cities,” First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said. “Simply put, an increase in real and personal property values indicates that the local economy here in Darien is holding its own in spite of the negative pressures from the challenged state economy.”
The 2018 revaluation process is expected to conclude by the end of the year and the Grand List assessment is set to be filed by the beginning of 2019 according to Town Assessor Anthony Homicki.
Homicki said taxpayers are notified around November about their re-assessed property values and an informal hearing follows where taxpayers cannot discuss appraisals but can ask questions.
Residents who disagree with the assessments can file an appeal to the town’s Board of Assessment Appeals by Feb. 20 of next year. If an agreement is not reached, residents can further appeal to the Stamford Superior Court.
“We average about 30 to 50 appeals that make it to the Stamford Superior Court,” Homicki said. “These are generally from owners with unique properties.”
Tax collection rates for the previous five fiscal years have averaged at 99.57 percent according to town Tax Collector Kathleen Larkins. The estimated collection rate for Fiscal Year 2019 as well as for the current fiscal year is 99.3 percent.
According to Board of Finance Chairman Jon Zagrodzky, the Grand List registers small changes but the revaluation, carried out every five years per state law, registers larger changes with the year-long collection of data.
“A revaluation adjusts the relative values of taxable properties in the town in a way that reflects the latest market values. Adjusting the relative values of the houses will depend on how the market has trended. We will carry out a careful assessment to make sure that all properties in town are taxed at a fair market value,” Zagrodzky said.
The Grand List is an important component in the equation that determines the mill rate for the town. In theory, the higher the Grand List value, the less pressure there is to raise the mill rate if local government expenditures remain flat.
“This redistributes the value of property in town for current market prices,” Zagrodzky said.
According to Homicki, Tyler Technologies Inc. has been contracted by the town for the past three revaluations dating back to 2003, the same year Homicki oversaw his first revaluation in Darien.
The town paid Tyler Technologies $209,900 for its services according to Homicki.
“Tyler Technologies has been the lowest bidder consistently and they know the community well,” Homicki said. “We need the expertise of these mass appraisal individuals who specialize on community properties, it’s a complement to the ongoing process.”