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Monday, March 01, 2004

Revised Property Assessment List Completed, Notices Go Out

A revised 2003 Westport property assessment list was completed over the weekend and notices went out today to about 900 residents informing them whether any changes were made in their property’s valuation, according to Assessor Glenn Werfelman.

“I signed off on it Saturday in the Town Clerk’s office,” he said, completing a review of assessments that had sparked controversy since the original list was published in mid-January.

Werfelman said “900 plus or minus” notices were sent to all residents who had raised issues with J. F. Ryan Associates, the firm hired to do the assessment. The list contains more than 10,000 properties.

He said notices also were sent to those whose assessments had changed, up or down, as a result of the review but who did not personally come forward.

Some residents, especially those near the water, had complained their valuations were too high.

They and others also identified properties they believed had been valued too low—especially compared to their recent sales price.

“I don’t know what (the number) exactly changed,” Werfelman told WestportNow. He declined to even estimate whether the number was dozens or hundreds.

“Why would that make a difference?” he asked. “I’m satisfied with the result and signed off on it. If people still dont like it, they can go to the Board of Assessment Appeals.”

The assessor, who with his staff has spent numerous hours on the review, added, “At this point, I’m pretty tired of it.”

Werfelman said copies of the revised list would be made available today.

But by day’s end, the town’s Information Technology department said no updated computer file of the list had been received from Ryan Associates.

Werfelman said the list would not indicate which property valuations had changed Җ something First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell had told her brown bag luncheon Feb. 25 it would include.

Farrell was traveling this weekend and will not be back at work until Tuesday, according to her office.

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Posted 03/01/04 at 03:15 PM  Permalink



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Great coverage, Gordon.

The quotes say it all…

Please continue to keep us voters informed until we too get tired of it.

Posted by tom feeley on March 01, 2004 at 05:34 PM | #
 

Thank you, WestportNow, for keeping us up to date on this.

The insensitivity of Mr. Wereflman to this process is unacceptable.

I suspect he will soon have plenty of time to rest after being so tired.

Posted by Just Call Me Outraged on March 01, 2004 at 08:31 PM | #
 

Gordon…Happy Birthday! :)
Thank you for the update on the Reval.
Elizabeth

Posted by Elizabeth Kuechenmeister on March 02, 2004 at 02:44 PM | #
 

Every hour and every day that goes by and the town fails to make the complete revised list available—with indicated changes—only diminishes public confidence in the whole process further.

If the list was indeed signed off on Saturday, it should have been made available immediately after that.

Something is terribly wrong here.

Diane—you have let your most ardent supporters down at a time when you really need us!!!

Posted by Disappointed on March 02, 2004 at 06:07 PM | #
 

Gordon,
Thanks for covering this.
I am amazed that Glen Werfelman does not understand the simplicity of the flaws in the evaluation.
He is asking those of us who may be overassessed or properly assessed by market standards to pay the taxes of those properties that are so grossly underassessed.
But I guess “he’s tired of it” and he’s
“satisfied with it” so he signed off on it.

Posted by Mike Laux on March 02, 2004 at 08:36 PM | #
 

IT APPEARS THAT THE ONLY THING THIS ADMINISTRATION UNDERSTANDS IS A LAWSIUT AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT MS FARELL IS GOING TO GET-MS FARRELL WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN ON ELECTION DAY-IF SHE GETS THAT FAR

Posted by ANGRY on March 02, 2004 at 10:30 PM | #
 

It is dissapointing to see the managemnet mistakes being made here-many Town employees work very hard and have a good attitude-but that does not seem to be the case here-some serious questions need to be asked here-who knew what when-and if they didn’t know then who was minding the shop?  The Town Assessor is a direct report to the First Selectwoman-now is the time for Diane to demonstrate her management skills and not rely on the Enron defense of the auditors didn;t tell me so I am not responsible

Posted by Dissapointed on March 03, 2004 at 01:48 AM | #
 

Unfortunately, it now appears that the pleas of town officials, most notably First Selectwoman Farrell, to “be patient” and “rest assured that . . . town officials are working very hard to respond to resident concerns” (Message from the First Selectwoman, 2/20/04) with the revaluation were merely a delaying tactic to foreclose further public review and inquiry of the flaws in this assessment.  With the state law deadline looming to certify and file Westport’s grand list with the Connecticut Office of Policy Management, or risk the loss of up to 10% of state funds, coupled with our Assessor’s yet to be explained delay in mailing out original assessment notices until mid-January, only days before the original deadline to certify with OPM (a deadline that forced Westport to obtain a 30 day extension), our elected officials have subverted and covered up a process that is in desperate need of explanation.  1,000 revised assessment notices were mailed, yet no public response to the legitimate questions raised not only by the assessment results produced by Ryan but the utter lack of transparency in the revaluation process in Westport.  How did Westport get into this position? 

- $300,000 dollars to an outside firm fired by other municipalities in Connecticut;

- $150,000 to now clean up the backlog of 1,700 building permits not reflected in the revaluation;

- a model required to be available to the public by law yet first available to Westporters with only days left until the March 1 deadline;

- approximately 5,600 households, or more than half of households in Westport, who may mistakenly believe that their property taxes are not going up significantly (or may be going down), as a result of the deceptive presentation of an “estimated budget” and “estimated mill rate” that creates “estimated” tax reductions for all residents whose assessment increase was less than 41%;

- elected officials, more than half of whom are within the 5,600 referenced above (with the majority of the remainder receiving “estimated” tax increases of less than $700.00), (i) reading periodicals during public meetings on this topic, or leaving early, or (ii) arguing in favor of the assessment on the basis of the number of appeals filed in 2003 versus those filed during the last assessment in 1999, without answering the legitimate question of whether the number of appeals in 2003 is reflective of the tremendous problem of under-assessment in Ryan’s 2003 assessment that, using the Assessor’s estimated budget and mill rate figures, has produced little or no estimated tax increases for more than half of the homeowners in Westport; and

- elected officials and other who have chosen to criticize the messengers as “rich people living at the beach” or “whiners”, rather than respond to the diligent research and legitimate questions raised by taxpayers like Mr. Ward Leo, Sal and Martha Lucci, Viveka Kjellgren and the members of the CBIA - taxpayers whose research showed that the assessment produced by Ryan (i)manages to get assessed values for properties sold in 2003, the year of the Assessment, that are within 5% of the sale price in only 5% of the cases and under-assesses by more than 5% in more than 41% of the cases; (ii)under-assesses properties sold within the last 4 years by approximately $114 million; and (iii) over-assesses in waterfront areas when comparing assessment increases to sales price increases in waterfront areas versus other areas of Westport.

For $300,000 of taxpayer money, aren’t we entitled to answers to these legitimate questions?  Why hasn’t the First Selectwoman, or the Assessor, of the Town Attorney, or the RTM, answered any of these questions publicly?  Do only those residents fortunate enough to be available during the workday to attend Brown Bag Luncheons get to have their questions answered?  Why has there been no response to the CBIA’s petition asking that the assessment be thrown out and re-done?

Is this how local government is really supposed to work?  And you would like our votes for Congress?

Posted by Evan Seideman, President Compo Beach Improvement A on March 03, 2004 at 02:03 AM | #