Shrinking grand list will not have big impact on taxpayers, Westport first selectman says

Photo of Katrina Koerting
The ribbon-cutting ceremony taking place at Basso Restaurant & Wine Bar on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Westport, Conn., including, from left, Second Selectman Jennifer Tooker, chef and co-owner Renato Donzelli, First Selectman Jim Marpe, and co-owner Gilda Scorza.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony taking place at Basso Restaurant & Wine Bar on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Westport, Conn., including, from left, Second Selectman Jennifer Tooker, chef and co-owner Renato Donzelli, First Selectman Jim Marpe, and co-owner Gilda Scorza.

Jarret Liotta / For Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTPORT — Though the grand list shrunk a bit due to the recent revaluation, officials say there should not be much of an impact on taxpayers in the upcoming budget.

“Normally, when a revaluation results in a decline in the grand list, municipalities chose to increase the mill rate to offset any reduction in property taxes collected,” First Selectman Jim Marpe said. “To minimize any mill rate increase, we have taken a conservative approach to the Fiscal Year 2021-22 budgeting process, which is currently taking place.”

Westport’s net grand list for 2020 is a little more than $10.8 billion, which is about 5.4 percent less than the 2019 net grand list of about $11.4 billion. The grand list is the sum of the net assessed value of all taxable property: real estate, motor vehicles and personal property.

Town Assessor Paul Friia said the decline was mostly due to the recently completed revaluation. Without factoring the revaluation, the percentage change for the grand list would have been a gain of just under 1 percent due to renovations, as well as new residential and commercial construction.

The town expected a decrease based on the property sales and income data available at the beginning of the revaluation process in January 2020, but ended up seeing a smaller decrease than projected due to COVID.

“When COVID came to Westport in March, it changed the market conditions by increasing residential sales activity and demand, and conversely by putting pressure on retail and office tenants and commercial landlords,” Friia said. “As a result, residential values didn’t decline as much as previously thought, but commercial values declined by a greater amount.”

He said revaluations typically cause taxes to change because the real estate values change every five years.

“The 2020 revaluation will not cause any substantial overall change in tax burden for either the commercial or residential categories,” Friia said. “Bear in mind that while the overall grand list went down, Westport continues to see interest and growth through new residential and commercial construction and renovations.”

Some of these projects are the new assisted living facility at 1141 Post Road E. and the gas station at 1830 Post Road E. Work is also continuing on the condominium development at 500 Main St. and residential units at 41 Richmondville Road.

Westport is also attracting businesses and new residents, based on a “significant increase in sales since the beginning of 2020,” according to a town news release.

While real estate is updated based on the market values every five years, motor vehicles and personal property is valued annually. The motor vehicle grand list saw an increase of about 3.9 percent and personal property remained generally the same due to both businesses closing and fewer new ones opening because of the pandemic, according to the release.

Real estate accounts for about $10.1 billion, or 93.7 percent of the overall grand list. Motor vehicles are about $364.4 million or 3.37 percent of the list and personal property is about $317.4 million, or 2.93 percent. These amounts might change based on upcoming Board of Assessment Appeal hearings and any corrections or pending lawsuits, according to the town.

These numbers will also be used to craft the upcoming budget.

“The economic uncertainties resulting from the ongoing challenge of COVID-19 are also playing a major factor in the budget deliberations,” Marpe said. “Fortunately, it appears that no major reductions to town services will be required.”

This story has been updated to reflect the correct values.

kkoerting@newstimes.com