Today, October 1st, is the day when the snapshot of Waterford is taken, where the value of every house, car, store and even power plant is determined at this exact moment.
For more than a year, the town has been collecting information as part of its re-evaluation, a process that happens once every five years. And now, it is up to Waterford Assessor Michael Bekech and his team to determine a value for every home in Waterford, which should be done by November.
The last re-evaluation was done in 2007, at the apex of the housing bubble and about a year before the crash of most of the United States’ largest financial institutions. Four years after that crash, home prices remain low, and most likely for the first time in recent memory the town’s grand list will decrease instead of increase.
“That is an unusual situation,” First Selectman Dan Steward said. “But not unprecedented.”
In a Friday interview, Bekech refused to speculate on how the grand list will change, saying tentative values will be released in November and the final grand list will not be completed in February. However, by all indications, residential values will drop, meaning comparatively entities that are valued every year – like Millstone Power Station, which pays 30 percent of the town’s taxes – will pay more in taxes.
How It Could Change
If the value of many homes drop, as expected, Waterford's grand list will decrease. For the government to collect the same amount of tax revenue, the mill rate will have to increase, which could cause “angst” if people don’t look at the full picture, Steward said.
“It probably will cause more angst,” Steward said. "But people need to look at the full picture."
However, if that does happen, Waterford homes would actually pay less in taxes comparatively compared to most businesses. All personal property is assessed every year, meaning it is much more up-to-date, Bekech said. That means if residential properties drop, personal property will pay a larger percentage of taxes.
That is particularly important in Waterford, where one entity, Millstone Power Station, pays 30 percent of the town’s taxes. Millstone, which is mostly considered personnel property (like the reactors), is taxed annually, meaning it is more up-to-date than Waterford’s homes. Therefore, if the homes are worth less and Millstone’s value stays relatively constant, the power plant will make up more of the grand list and pay a larger share of the town’s taxes.
Nuts And Bolts of the Re-Evaluation
Now that all the data is collected, the assessor’s office will begin to value every home in Waterford. That should be done by around Thanksgiving, and then the value will be mailed to every homeowner in town, Bekech said.
People can then appeal that amount to the company that helped with the re-evaluation, Vision Appraisal. Those hearings, which will be held in Town Hall, will run until about the middle of January, and then by the end of February a final grand list will be signed off on, Bekech said.
If people still are not happy with their assessment, they can appeal to the Waterford Board of Assessment Appeals by March 20th. Those hearings last until April, and the grand list is again readjusted. If people are still unhappy with their assessment, they can challenge the Board of Assessment Appeals’ decision in superior court.