PROSPECT — After a recent revaluation, the values of homes throughout Prospect and the grand list dropped. At Regency at Prospect, however, the value of the majority of houses increased.
This means that the residents of Regency will see their taxes increase and residents at the 55 and older community off of Scott Road are not pleased with how the revaluation played out.
Assessor Vincent Leone explained that revaluation process looks at sales through October 2011.
“The overall sales in the town went down, but in that development they went up,” Leone said. “We have to take whatever the sales are and base our values on that.”
Not all of the residents at Regency are happy with that answer though.
Frank Conlon and Joseph Bongiovanni felt that there were other mitigating issues that the town had not looked at.
Bongiovanni said that the town’s real estate assessment is down 7 percent and the other senior community in town, Boulder Brook, is down 5 percent.
“We said, ‘Is it possible that the town is down but the neighborhood is up?’ Depending on which street you look at around here, the neighborhood is down 8.5 to 16.4 percent,” Bongiovanni said.
Bongiovanni said re-sales in the community are down by about 7.4 percent.
There were four homes that sold below the list price since October. However, those sales can not be used as evidence for the lowering of their revaluation rates.
Bongiovanni said the town has told him the reason their revaluations are higher is because Regency’s sales have gone up since its previous valuation.
“That’s not the case. Our sales are not going up, as evidenced by the re-sales we’ve had that are down 7.2 percent,” Bongiovanni said.
According to Leone, the town cannot take the fluctuations into consideration.
“The sales will always be based on 2011, not adjusted for increases and decreases in the market,” Leone said.
Bongiovanni felt that the company did not take all of the factors under scrutiny.
He was concerned with how the valuation put a different price tag on identical types of house. He explained that the same types of units were valuated at prices ranging from $140 to $175 a square foot.
Conlon said that the price evaluation from 2008 through 2011 does not take into consideration all of the amenities and give-aways that came with each of the new purchases. He pointed out that the base price of the units had risen by about $5,000, but all the amenities negated that.
Both men were also concerned about the errors they found in the reports. Some houses were listed as having a finished basement when they didn’t, every house was listed as having a whirlpool hot tub when only about six had them, and some house were listed as having a third bedroom, Conlon explained.
All of the errors were found and reported by the residents.
“They corrected errors that we discovered. Not that they discovered, that we discovered,” Bongiovanni said.
Leone said that the town had sent out surveys in the mail that the residents could read over and make sure there was nothing incorrect about the assessment. He explained that the town received many of the surveys back and updated the information accordingly.
Bongiovanni felt that using only the surveys was not the proper way to go about assessing the value of the houses in Regency.
“They didn’t send them to every household. We have a lot of members who say they didn’t receive one,” Bongiovanni said.
According to Bongiovanni, most of the data provided to the evaluation company came from the Assessor’s Office, which was problematic since the data was incorrect.
“How do you verify the input data if you don’t do in-home inspections,” Bongiovanni asked. “So, if you’re putting all this input in and you expect to get accurate output for assessments, somewhere along the line you have to have verification of the input data.”
Bongiovanni felt that the town did Regency a disservice by not sending inspectors to look at a random sampling of the houses.
“We caught all of these errors on our own and we’re not professional investigators. I’m sure we didn’t catch every error that went into that process because we didn’t do every home,” Bongiovanni said.
Leone explained since the valuation has already been done, the information the town has received is going to be what it moves forward with.
“We couldn’t go back and do another reval. We had gone through the process,” Leone said.
After they learned that the revaluation had increased the prices of their homes, 99 residents of Regency brought their claims to the Board of Assessment Appeals. None of them received any adjustments to the valuation of their homes.
“Quite frankly we think that the appeals board is a rubber stamp process for the Assessor’s Office and the town,” Bongiovanni said.
The next step in the process is to go to the state Board of Appeals, Bongiovanni explained.
“It’s not just that you go and present your case, and it doesn’t cost you anything. To go before the state appeals board there’s a court entry fee of $300 set by statute, there’s a service process fee of $90 and you need to have an appraisal done. So it’s going to cost you $800 just to go present your appeals,” Bongiovanni said.
Even after paying all those fees, Bongiovanni feels that there is no guarantee the state board will not just OK what the town’s assessment says.
“The whole process is stacked against you,” Bongiovanni said.
If the state board does not accept the valuation complaints, the residents are looking at the possibility of a class-action civil suit, Bongiovanni explained.
Bongiovanni said that the residents of Regency are givers, not takers.
“We’re contributing about 5 percent to the grand list, yet we only make up about 4 percent of the homes. Now, you would think, if all things we’re equal, if we make up 4 percent of the homes, we should be contributing 4 percent to the grand list,” Bongiovanni said.
Regency, as a community, is the number one contributor to the grand list.
He went on to say that the citizens of Regency have paid between $850,000 and $950,000 in taxes, depending on what the mill rate has been.
The only services the residents use are the police department, the fire department and the senior center. Bongiovanni explained the town does not maintain the roads at regency. Since it is a private development, the residents have to hire their own company to take care of the roads.
“When you think about it, we are being double taxed. We are paying the town for services that we don’t get and then we have to pay the homeowners association for those services that the town doesn’t provide that we do get,” Bongiovanni said.
For both Conlon and Bongiovanni, this is about more than money, amenities, and mill rates. It is about being allowed to live in peace.
Conlon explained he, like many of the residents in Regency, felt like this would be the last time they would have to move.
“People put lots of equity in their homes, and then they sell and want to move somewhere quiet,” Conlon said.
Bongiovanni felt it was important for the residents to take on this issue so that they can live in Regency in peace.
“We’re fighting for our ability to stay here and live here and not be financially harassed. We want to stay here through our golden years,” Bongiovanni said.