NAUGATUCK — A property revaluation to determine what homeowners pay in taxes is about to get underway.
The state requires towns to perform a full, physical revaluation every 10 years to assess properties’ current market values for tax purposes, and a smaller revaluation every five years.
“Unless there’s some big change in the economy in this next year, most people are probably going to see reductions in their assessment from 2007 to 2012,” Tax Assessor George Hlavacek said.
Hlavacek said the height of the real estate market was in 2006, and property values have been slowly declining since then.
However, a lower property value does not necessarily mean fewer taxes.
“If the grand list is lower due to the result of the revaluation, but (the borough’s) budget stays basically the same, (the borough) would have to increase the mill rate to pull the same amount of dollars out of the smaller, total grand list,” Hlavacek said.
Whether an individual’s taxes go up or down depends on the value of their home compared to other properties in Naugatuck and if new construction has added more homeowners to share the burden.
From what he’s observed in the past year, Hlavacek said the market value of most homes has gone down.
Hlavacek said a few people are making improvements to their homes to take advantage or low interest rates and contractor costs, but overall there has been less construction in the last few years than there was five years ago at the last revaluation.
“If you have the money, it might be a good time, but most people don’t have the money and they’re just lucky to be maintaining their houses,” Hlavacek said.
After the revaluation four years ago, commercial property values increased 72 percent, industrial property values went up 46 percent and residential property values went up 55 percent. The median market value of a single-family home was determined to be $223,000, and the tax bill for the average homeowner went up about 13 percent, causing a public outcry.
The borough failed to complete revaluations between 1979 and 2000, fearing such spikes in property values, with the result that property values surged all the higher when a revaluation was finally completed. The Naugatuck Taxpayers In Revolt formed more than a decade ago to fight that revaluation.
The Board of Mayor and Burgesses has hired Tyler Technologies, Inc. of Tolland to perform the valuation, data collection, and video imaging services for a cost of $203,000. The company was the lowest bidder and earned glowing reviews from assessors in other towns, such as Groton and Newington, where it has recently conducted revaluations, Hlavacek said.
The decision to hire Tyler Technologies prompted one company to submit a lower bid after all the sealed bids had been opened. A third company, Fairfield-based Municipal Valuation Services, sent a letter to the borough claiming all the other companies omitted items from their paperwork or changed the specifications and that the borough had allowed someone to rebid.
The claim caused concern among burgesses, prompting them to postpone voting on the bid last month until borough attorney Edward Fitzpatrick could complete a legal review. Fitzpatrick concluded the bidding had been done ethically.
Mayor Robert Mezzo said the board was inclined to pick whomever Hlavacek recommended.
“It’s very rare that we do not act on the recommendation of a department head that is in a better position to examine the qualifications of a company and the ability of the company to perform the services for the quoted price,” Mezzo said. “I think you get into trouble when you start to deviate from that.”
The revaluation process will take about a year, according to Hlavacek.
The contractor will set up offices in Town Hall and start analyzing property sales from October 2010 to October 2012, Hlavacek said.
Sales closest to the 2012 deadline will be most relevant, but by looking at historical data from the past two years, the firm can track trends, Hlavacek said.
Once Tyler Technologies does the sales verification, they will send out data mailers to homeowners with the information they’ve collected on the property. Homeowners will have to verify the information and report discrepancies, Hlavacek said.
The company will call those who reported discrepancies and attempt to work out the differences over the phone, though some may have to go out and visit the property, Hlavacek said.
In late spring and early summer, contractor employees will drive every street and review every property individually, comparing their information against the property that’s in front of them and taking pictures of each property, Hlavacek said. In most cases, the inspectors shouldn’t have to enter the property because they can see what they need to know from the road, Hlavacek said.
In Naugatuck, Hlavacek said, small subdivisions mean inspectors can see just about everything on a property from the street.
“I can pretty much visualize that house, and when I go out and see it, I know exactly whether our card is correct compared to the actual property,” Hlavacek said.
He said some towns, especially more rural ones, actually go out and measure each home. But, by using the data mailers, the borough can do the assessments more quickly and accurately.
“Over the years we’ve learned, when you have these armies of data collectors out there … sometimes they correct problems that may have existed, but other times they may be creating problems that didn’t exist. … (With data mailers), you actually spend more of your time and your resources reviewing the property with people who know what they’re looking for,” Hlavacek said.
Evaluators use Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal (CAMA) to calculate current market value, based on square footage and the information from the data mailers. They compare their predicted values against actual sales to adjust the program accordingly, Hlavacek said.
“Obviously, they can’t finalize their table massaging … until Oct. 1, so they’ve got all the sales,” Hlavacek said.
He said the final property values should reflect the market for that particular area, including location, condition of the property, and desirability.
Hlavacek said assessment notices with the property’s value from 2007 at the last assessment and the new value for 2012, should be send out by the end of next October and early November.
Once homeowners receive their assessment, they can meet with a company representative to review the numbers and make adjustments if necessary, Hlavacek said. Those meetings will start in November and go until the beginning of December, Hlavacek said.
Tyler Technologies will compile all the current values of properties into the borough’s grand list at the end of January, Hlavacek said.
Hlavacek said his office will work with Tyler Technologies to make sure everything runs smoothly.
“They, not knowing the town, are going to be relying on us to help tem out with the maps,” Hlavacek said.
He said anyone who has questions about the process should call his office at (203) 720-7016.
“The more participation with the homeowner involved in this revaluation process, I think, the better the job is going to be,” Hlavacek said.
The Republican American contributed to this article.