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Monday, June 27, 2016

Despite Mill Rate Drop, Most Westporters’ Taxes Are Up

By James Lomuscio

Westport taxpayers this week are receiving their new tax bills and despite a slightly lower mill rate, more than half will find their taxes have gone up, Tax Assessor Paul Friia said today.

WestportNow.com Image
Westport taxpayers are receiving their new tax bills in the mail this week. WestportNow.com photo

He said 59 percent of the 10,300 residential and 508 commercial property owners will find their taxes have increased from a few dollars to several thousand—even if they made no changes to their property.

The remaining 41 percent will see no change or reductions in their taxes, Friia said. The reason: properties where the values are higher than average usually see a higher tax bill.

Taxpayers have until the end of July to pay without incurring a late fee.

“It’s what the market is telling us those properties are worth, and values in certain neighborhoods may have gone up because they have been more active than others,” Friia said.

For example, certain neighborhoods in the downtown saw values increase an average of 18 percent, Friia said, some more, due to downtown revitalization and development.

“Homes in the downtown area increased in value 18 percent, some more than 30 percent,” he said.

“Because of the diversity in the types of homes that we have in Westport, it’s not unusual to see some values increase significantly higher than the average,” he added.

Of the 31 Connecticut municipalities that had revaluations done in 2015, Westport saw the biggest bump in its Grand List, 7.8 percent, tipping the scales at $10.876 billion, Friia said.

The increase in property values shows an active market defining the town as a desirable place to live, he said. A swelling Grand List also has an inverse effect on the mill rate,

In May, the Board of Finance unanimously approved a 16.86 mill rate for fiscal year 2016-17, a .86 decrease from the current year. (See WestportNow May 18, 2016)

With a 16.86 mill rate, taxpayers will pay $16.86 for every $1,000 of their homes’ assessed value.

At the time, board members hailed the mill rate reduction.  “It provides the taxpayer with a real decrease, which would be good,” said finance board member Jennifer Tooker prior to the vote.

Friia said 254 property owners who found their assessments too high went to the Board of Assessment Appeals, which held hearings in March.

Of that number, 176 had their valuations, and thus taxes, decreased. Five saw their values go up, and the rest remained the same, he said.

According to Friia, the revaluation as of Oct. 1, 2015 conducted by Visions Government Solutions was more detailed than the one in 2010, and thus “more complicated this time because it involved physical inspections.”

The state did not require site visits for the 2010 revaluations, he said.

Vision and Friia’s office went to about 8,750 properties, at which they had “a 42 percent entry rate,” meaning homes in which inspectors were allowed inside.

“But that doesn’t mean we didn’t do an exterior inspection and take measurements,” he said of the 58 percent where inspectors were denied access.

Residential properties are valued primarily against arm’s length sales of comparable houses during the 12 months beginning in October 2014, acording to Friia. Commercial values are determined using confidential information about a business’s income.

“Now that the values are set, unless someone does work to their house, they (valuations) will remain the same until 2020,” Friia said, adding that the mill rate now will have a more direct impact on taxes.

“Now, it’s a budgetary issue,” he said. “The revaluation is taken out of the equation.”

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Posted 06/27/16 at 01:14 PM  Permalink



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Finally an honest article about taxes going up in Westport.  On May 18th there was an article applauding a decrease in the Mill rate saying, “With the revaluation, some homeowners will see a tax increase despite the mill rate decrease while some will see a tax decrease.”

I’m not sure how some is now 59%.  The increase is shameful but at least the article accurate

Posted by Ryan Donoghue on June 27, 2016 at 02:27 PM | #