What does “Reval” mean to you?

November 13, 2013

Revaluation (“reval”), the process of periodically assessing property values, happens every five years in every Connecticut town. The goal is to make sure all properties are evaluated by the same standards, so that the property tax burden can be distributed fairly. The process is managed by each town, but a consistent problem has been challenging our citizens across the state – reval has contributed to quickly rising taxes on age restricted/retirement housing communities and waterfront property.

Of course, the process of reval alone is not fully responsible for these rising costs, but it does greatly impact the amount you pay in property taxes. Before pointing fingers, let’s take a closer look at what exactly reval means in Connecticut.

According to Section 12-62 of the General Statutes, “‘Revaluation’ or ‘revalue’ means to establish the present true and actual value of all real property in a town as of a specific assessment date.”

Revaluations must occur in each town every five years. Every ten years, the revaluations must also include physical inspections. If a town does not conduct a revaluation, it would lose important grant awards as a penalty. Through the reval process, towns must assess properties for 70 percent of their fair market value, this number is then used in part of the equation to calculate property tax.

Property taxes in Connecticut include not only your home, but also your car. Motor vehicles are assessed based upon 70 percent of average retail value as determined by the Kelley Blue Book. However, there are measures in place working towards eliminating that tax in 2018. Home property taxes, on the other hand, are not going anywhere; which is why we should all be concerned with how municipalities assess our home properties.

So, how do towns determine property values? Municipalities must follow “generally accepted mass appraisal methods” (Section 12-62). This can include comparing sales of similar properties and determining how much it would cost to replace the home if destroyed. Homes are assessed by looking at many factors including size of home, quality of construction, local market conditions, age of home, access to recreation, quality of school system, utilities, zoning, transportation, etc.

The process of revaluation has good intentions, but sometimes negative consequences for many residents. Age restricted/retirement communities and waterfront properties have historically assessed for high amounts due to their desirability. In recent revals across the state some of the highest reassessed values, which lead to some of the biggest jumps in property taxes, fall on these properties that are in high demand. But remember, the problem here is not only the reval – it really is the overall property tax system.

In Newtown, for example, those who live in age restricted communities experienced relatively stable property assessments after the 2012 reval. However, the town’s mill rate (the tax per dollar of assessed property value – basically, the number you multiply by to figure out how much your property taxes are) jumped significantly. Because that number jumped, property taxes jumped, even on homes that retained their assessed value from the last reval.

The burdens that revals place on people occur when one of two things happen: properties are assessed inaccurately or the mill rate jumps significantly. While individuals have no direct control over the mill rate, you can address an inaccurate assessment with the following steps.

Step 1: Contact the revaluation company used by your town and make an appointment for an informal hearing. This informal hearing will give you an opportunity to review any miscalculations and can result in an adjustment, a second inspection or property review, or no change at all.

Step 2: If the informal hearing does not result in an assessment change, you can set up a formal hearing with the local Board of Assessment Appeals. According to General Statutes Sec. 12-111 you must file for a formal hearing on or before February 20 the year after revaluation. Check with your local town to access the required forms.

Step 3: If the Board of Assessment Appeals does not change your assessment, you can appeal to the Superior Court as provided under Section 12-117a and 12-119 of the Connecticut General Statutes. The support of legal counsel is usually needed for this final course of action.

The constant revaluation process in Connecticut can be attributed to the overreliance on the property tax system at the municipal level. And, that is an issue all unto itself. Keep a watchful eye on your assessment as it has a direct impact on the taxes you pay to your local community.