Westport home values rise 8-10% in new assessment data
Preliminary assessment figures show values of Westport’s residential properties have increased 8 to 10 percent, while commercial property rose 12 percent, compared to 2010 assessment figures.
Assessor Paul Friia outlined the preliminary figures from the recently completed 2015 revaluation process Wednesday for the Board of Finance, saying, “Westport has had an active real estate market.” There were more than 450 sales over the last 12 months.
Most of the preliminary assessments, he said, have been mailed to property owners, while about 3 percent of the 10,700 properties still need additional examination before a new value is set. Those are expected to be sent out in the next seven to 10 days, he said.
He said 4,500 of the property owners have responded to the revaluation notices, and 1,800 of those have indicated that they feel a change should be made in their new assessments.
Friia said the purpose of the property revaluation, which is done every five years, is to establish “fair market value in order to create an equitable evaluation of the tax rate.” The figure is supposed to reflect 70 percent of a property’s fair market value.
Asked about whether different areas in town reflect larger changes than the average, Friia noted that waterfront Saugatuck Shores, as a result of damage caused by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, had seen a decline.
“Saugatuck Shores is probably down just a little bit from where it was in 2010,” he said.
While he said he didn’t see property values in any particular part of town rising noticeably higher than those in other areas, “homes in the mid-range price range have come up a bit.” These, he said, are sales in the area of $1.25 million, which is Westport’s median home sales price.
“Homes in the high price ranges,” he said, around $4 million to $5 million, “have not come up that much.”
Friia said several factors are used to determine a property’s value, including location, size, land size and extent of improvements.
“These are technically preliminary numbers,” Friia noted. “They don’t become official numbers until I sign the Grand List on the 31st of January.”
“I think it’s important for the public to realize (that) the revaluation ... doesn’t actually increase your tax burden,” said finance member Lee Caney.
That’s because the new tax rate — currently, it stands at 18.09 mills — will be determined only after the town’s 2016-17 budget is adopted next spring, and officials set a mill rate needed to finance the spending package.
Challenging the new assessments
Property owners who feel their new assessment value does not represent 70 percent of the property’s fair market value first have an opportunity for an informal hearing with a representative of Vision Government Solutions, the contractor hired by the town for the revaluation program. Appointments can be scheduled at www.vgsi.com/schedules. Owners need the parcel ID number at the top of the valuation letter to book an appointment.
Those with more than two parcels to discuss or who do not have access to a computer should call Vision Government Solutions at 888-844-4300 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Property owners are advised to book an appointment within five days of receiving a revaluation letter. Beginning this month, hearings will be conducted by appointment only in the Town Hall auditorium, 110 Myrtle Ave.
Property owners are asked not to call the Assessor’s office to schedule an appointment.
Owners who disagree with the outcome of the informal appeal hearing may formally appeal their property assessment at Board of Assessment Appeals’ hearings planned next March. The formal appeals must be physically filed in the Assessor’s office by Feb 22.