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Why This Re-Evaluation May Be Good For Waterford Homeowners

And bad for Millstone Power Station. The town is in the process of a re-evaluation, with today being the “snap shot” day in the process.

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.

Kevin Girard October 01, 2012 at 10:39 AM
If you can independently set the mill rate and the valuations, then I almost don't see the point of the valuations or spending whatever we do for the vendor to do them. At the end of the day, the town needs X dollars to run and you get X from A * B. If A goes down because you've re-evaluated, you're simply going to raise B proportionally and not change a whole lot. Not that I mind having my home's value accurately on the books, but if it doesn't genuinely affect what most people pay, it seems a sort of superficial effort.
fedspy October 01, 2012 at 01:50 PM
point well taken, it just seems to be another avenue in which all towns and cities do to raise revenue to pay the ever increasing salaries and benefits of public employees at the expense of the tax payer. however, i believe it is mandated by state law to have evaluations every 5 years, and endorsed enthusiastically by the leaders or elected officials of the govt., in order to keep the govt. growing and expanding. in simplistic terms, a REVENUE raiser.
R Lee Balderdash October 01, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Dominion can always sue the town if they don't like paying more "proportionally" than the residents. But are they really paying more proportionally? They paid 1.2 billion and are paying property tax based on an assessment of @867 million- less than the purchase price on the market. As a resident who bought a house around the same time, my assessed property value has nearly tripled from what i paid on the same market. Revaluations are a waste of time and money. Property values should be reset at points of sale.
Catherine Keesee October 01, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Kevin is exactly right! I was going to write the same thing and he did the work for me. It is just a math equasion!
Mark D. Wiggins October 01, 2012 at 03:05 PM
I have thought about this many times. I don't like the sliding scale (how big your house is or where it is located) but I am not sure the alternate. Does a single person living in a 4,000 square foot house use more town resources then a couple in a 1,600 SF ranch with 4 kids? (answer would be no), but a town will hit the single person much harder then the family. Does a brand new BMW wear out roads more then a 20 year old Honda? No, but a town will hammer the BMW driver big time in taxes. More expensive car doesn't always mean bigger income, if that is where you were headed. What about someone who rents their house out to way, way to many people (lot's of that going on). Big burden on the town, yet the town doesn't receive any more taxes then the house across the street with retired couple in it. The problem is that I am not sure of an alternative solution. All we hear today is that "everyone should pay their fair share". The only problem with that is "fair" is never defined and "everyone" never really means "everyone" (it usually means "the other guy needs to pay more"). Finally, to get everyone to agree on a "fair" method will be simply impossible..."fair" is subjective and it would entail a LOT of compromise....something we (as a nation) have not been very good at lately. So I guess we are stuck with what we are doing...
John Sheehan October 01, 2012 at 08:32 PM
Personal Property and automobiles are revaluated yearly. Residential properties are revaluated every five years by state statute. It used to be every ten years but then the homeowners were hit with massive tax increases at once. Even with a five year reval, the statute permits a phased in procedure to lessen the "sticker shock." This years reval should be a drop in the value of most residences in Waterford. This will mean a reduction in the grand list. The lower grand list will still require the same or better services so the mill rate may increase. It will be different for different homeowners. Some will see a tax increase, some will see property taxes remain the same and others will see a tax reduction due to the change in valuation.
Don DePhillips October 01, 2012 at 09:37 PM
I also believe the value should be determine by the selling price after all that's what it's actually worth. Don DePhillips
Wendy Mo October 02, 2012 at 12:53 PM
The whole process is very aggravating. Last re-evaluation, we felt our house was assessed very high. We put together a spreadsheet including values of homes right in our neighborhood, recent sales of homes in our immediate area and had it all figured out right down to price/sf. We met with the town to appeal and one of the people hearing our case was a local realtor who told us that price/sf was not at all a realistic way of determining the value of our home. Really??? The only thing I've ever heard a realtor tout when house hunting is the overall price/sf of each house. All of our valid info we collected was basically ignored and, Surprise!, our appeal was rejected. I'm sure this time around won't be any different. Values will lower, Mill Rate will increase to make up for it, end of story.
nascarblue October 06, 2012 at 11:51 AM
here we go again, instead of commenting at this time, i am going to wait until everything is said and done, what does amaze me is they are putting this task into one mans hands & his team??, and we as home owners, some that have been born and raised in waterford, for generations and remain and have played the topsy turvey ups and downs of our homes over the years, well 'patiently" i will sit again and see what Mr. Bekech & his unknown teams will decide our homes and their values. At one point a few years ago when they assessed my home i decided to call a friend of mine in real estate, she is well known and has a reputation of honesty, anyways i asked her for her estimate on the value of my property, i did not say anything because at that time i was considering selling depending on the real estates value, what truley amazed me when the final paper work came in, the town under estimated my value and her real estate team gave me an estimate that was $25,000 over what the town said, ok, if i sold there is always the wiggle room, the towns estimate and taxes is what i had to go on, i decided not to sell the market is totally ridulous, thank you government, well i guess i did comment, now i sit and wait.......

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