Last night the Board of Selectmen voted to postpone implementing the October 1, 2017 revaluation for one year. They came to the conclusion after hearing from town CFO Anne Kelly-Lenz that it would be nearly impossible to complete the revaluation process within the time required by the state, following the November, 2017 retirement of Wilton’s former tax assessor, David Lisowski.

Connecticut towns are mandated to complete a revaluation of the town’s grand list every five years, but according to Kelly-Lenz, it’s a very complicated, multi-step process. She detailed everything involved to first develop the Oct. 1, 2017 regular grand list, and then revaluate that grand list–all by a March 31 or April 31 (with extension) deadline:

  • data compilation of building permits, all taxable property–personal, residential, and commercial–and supplemental motor vehicles
  • inspection and valuation of residential property (assisted by Vision Government Solutions and consultant appraisers)
  • review; analysis and confirmation of each residential property valuation
  • valuation of commercial property
  • owner notification of new valuations
  • pre-appeal meetings with property owners and consultants
  • attendance at Board of Assessment Appeals hearings
  • adjustments following any hearings

Kelly-Lenz says her recommendation to delay revaluation came after discussions with the Town’s consultants and other local town assessors, who confirmed her conclusion that it would be impossible to make filing deadlines without an assessor in place. What’s more, because the town anticipates a high number of assessment appeals, officials believe the Board of Assessment Appeals would not be able to complete their work within the statutory time requirements either.

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice told the other BOS members that both she and Board of Assessment Appeals chair Don Drummond supported Kelly-Lenz’s recommendation as well. When asked by BOS member Dave Clune whether there was a reason to not postpone, she was firm in her response. “I can’t think of one.”

Town counsel Ira Bloom agreed that the town really has no choice but to delay.

“We’re obligated to do a revaluation and by law we have to do it. We’re in a position as Anne outlined, it just cannot be done without an assessor to finish all the necessary work. The advice we’ve been given is that it’s just not possible to get somebody else to come in and jump into it and pull it together in a matter of several weeks, it’s just not possible.”

Both he and Kelly-Lenz outlined the three steps the town now has to take in order to get state approval to delay revaluation by a year, as allowed per state statutes:

  1. Request that State Representative Gail Lavielle submit a bill, in the current year’s legislative session, to delay Wilton’s implementation of the revaluation until the October 1, 2018 grand list. Vanderslice said that making such a request via bill is not unusual. “When we call Gail she said, ‘We see these every year.’”
  2. The timing of when an approval would be received is uncertain, so the town will also file an application with the CT State Office of Policy and Management (OPM) secretary for a waiver of penalties that could be imposed for not implementing the revaluation as scheduled. But that can’t happen for a while–no earlier than 30 days after the October 1, 2017 grand list is filed, which must happen by Feb. 28.
  3. Request that the OPM secretary approve the year-long postponement of implementation because of the high number of expected appeals, something the Board of Assessment Appeals’ is likely unable to complete by the deadline. This request typically doesn’t happen until appeals have been filed, but Vanderslice said there’s evidence already showing there will likely be an unusually high level of appeals. Plus town officials want to prevent any possible errors that could lead to even more appeals.

Kelly-Lenz spoke with officials in the town of Orange, CT, which was success two time in obtaining a one-year revaluation. She said they told her one of the times they filed because their assessor was out on medical leave after a surgery when the revaluation would have to be done–and that request for delay was approved.

“We don’t have an assessor. They even had someone who could sign it, we don’t,” she said.

Bloom added that Westport had successfully filed a postponement many years ago, and that trying to get a delay via the legislative channels and Wilton’s state representative Lavielle “seems to be the most common way for towns to pursue this.”

“If there’s a chance that OPM should do it on their own at the town’s request, otherwise the legislative way seems likely, from past precedence and what Gail tells us.”

If a one-year extension is granted on the revaluation, the grand list values to be used for FY 2019 property taxes would remain the October 1, 2016 grand list updated for 2017 additions. Any property owner who identified errors in their field card as part of the revaluation mailer, can appeal their October 1, 2017 assessment. Requests for appeals are due on March 20, 2018, and appeal hearings will be held during April 2018.