Wilton taxpayers should be on the lookout for an important delivery in the next two weeks–and it’s not a holiday gift.

As part of the legally-required Grand List revaluation process, the Town of Wilton has just about completed the reassessments of residential properties and homeowners should expect to receive notices of assessed value of their property in the mail by Dec. 31, 2018.

At last night’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Wilton’s assessor, Sarah Scacco, made a presentation to the BOS members to explain what residents can expect and how the revaluation process will proceed.

Revaluation is a process the town does every five years to reappraise all real estate in Wilton through data collection and comparing market values of comparable property. Real estate is assessed at 70% of fair market value. A revaluation is done to account for any appreciation or depreciation of that value at different rates since the last revaluation, which was in 2012. While a revaluation is supposed to be conducted every five years, Wilton’s 2017 revaluation was postponed for a year, and properties will still be assessed to reflect 70% of market value as of Oct. 1, 2017.

There’s been speculation that with the revaluation will come significant tax increases for residents, especially for owners of mid-sized homes currently in the under $1 million range. There’s a likelihood that homes valued at below $1 million will either increase in value or decrease only a small amount, while the value of properties above $1 million will likely see larger decreases in valuation. That means any tax rate increase could be higher for residents whose property values haven’t changed as much as residents whose property values had more significant drops. Those residents may even potentially see decreases in their tax bills.

Overall, Scacco characterized the data that’s been collected as “good” and that the numbers “will fall right in line.”

“I don’t really foresee that big of a fluctuation overall,” although time will tell once residents start to receive their assessment notices in the mail.

Once residents do receive those assessment notices, they are eligible to appeal the valuation made by the assessors if they think the change in valuation has been too much. Scacco explained the process and timeline of what residents will be able to do.

  • Informal hearings with Vision Appraisal will be held from Jan. 7-25, 2019 as needed.  Those will be scheduled and held at Comstock Community Center. The deadline to schedule an informal hearing is Jan. 16, 2019. 
  • The Oct. 1, 2018 Grand List will be ‘finalized’ by Feb. 28, 2019. 
  • Board of Assessment appeal hearings will be held in April 2019. Applications can be filed only between March 1-20, 2019–no earlier and no later.

Importance of Informal Hearings 

Scacco said she “stressed how important informal hearings are,” as her office’s way to get feedback from the community.

“We still have the ability to make changes. Anything we discover through informal hearings, we can easily make those changes before the grand list gets signed. Otherwise our hands are tied and we have to go through the appeal process,” she said, adding that she encouraged taxpayers to get involved in that process.

Instructions for how to schedule an informal hearing will be included in the notices residents receive. Appointments can be scheduled online or by a phone number that will be provided.

Scacco repeated her encouragement, urging taxpayers to consider scheduling informal hearings, both to get a better understanding of their new valuation and to get engaged in the process.

Part of that does require a little homework to gather information before going into the meeting with Vision Appraisal, including researching the market value of similar properties. Scacco said that taxpayers should compare their new valuations with those of similar properties in the surrounding areas–reminding residents that the amounts which they need to use for comparison are from sales that occurred between Oct. 1, 2016 to Oct. 1, 2017.

All pertinent data will be updated online on the Vision Appraisal website once the appraisal notices are sent to residents. There is also a link to that on the assessor’s webpage. Once on that website, residents should click on the ‘Sales Search’ tab to filter by dates of sales and price range.

Another tool taxpayers can use to determine values is MapXpress, which is also linked to on the assessor’s webpage.

She cautioned that residents need to make sure they’re comparing their property valuation with other properties that were sold in “arm’s length transactions”–sales between willing buyers and sellers who are independent and not related. Comparing to properties sold through family members, estate sales, foreclosures or quit claims are typically not sold at market value, and won’t be considered fair comparison–so they can’t be used to argue for a lower valuation.

Board of Assessment Appeals

Scacco said anyone who is still unhappy with the assessment value of their property can make a formal appeal through the Board of Assessment Appeals.

She cautioned that it’s important to bring any pertinent information to the appeal hearing.

“Bring paperwork, make sure you bring copies, anything you bring does have to be retained for FOI purposes,” she explained, adding that residents can bring pictures that may be evidence to support an appeal. “It’s better to have more than less.”

Any comparable sale prices of similar properties shown during an appeal must have occurred before Oct. 1, 2017. Whether residents collect information themselves or hire an appraiser to do an independent appraisal and market analysis, Scacco cautions, “2018 sales wouldn’t be relevant. You could hire an appraiser but not required. If you do, make sure it’s retroactive appraisal and for tax purposes.”