Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Tax burden to shift toward residential property owners

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
March 19, 2007

VERNON - Because of last year's real estate revaluation, the total value of taxable property in town has soared by 41 percent - and some of the local property tax burden will shift from commercial to residential taxpayers, town officials say.

The new grand list, which reflects values as of last Oct. 1, totals $1.87 billion.

"It's incredible the jump just in real estate alone," Town Assessor David Wheeler said Monday.

Largely due to the revaluation, real estate values increased by 50 percent, and gross assessments now stand at $546.9 million, Wheeler said.

Wheeler said new construction accounted for only $15 million of that change, with changes in property values since the last revaluation accounting for the rest.

The town last revalued real estate in 2000, using a "statistical" method that didn't involve inspections of all local properties. The last revaluation in which such inspections were done was in 1991.

The tax rate is expected to decline once the budget is adopted.

The grand list represents the total amount of taxable property in town, including real estate, motor vehicles, and "personal property," or business equipment.

The numbers released late last week show a 4 percent shift of the tax burden from commercial to residential taxpayers, Wheeler said.

Residential property accounts for 74.9 percent of the gross taxable property on the new grand list, while commercial, industrial and utility properties represent 23.9 percent.

The previous year, residential real estate was 70.9 percent while commercial accounted for 27.6 percent.

The shift is due to lower interest rates and the market driving the value of residential real estate, while commercial properties tend to be tied into long-term leases where prices rarely change, Wheeler said.

Assessment for a store like K-Mart won't change much from year to year, but home values can change dramatically, particularly in a revaluation year, Wheeler said.

The newer condo projects in town, like The Mansions off Hockanum Boulevard, the Quail Hollow Development off Dart Hill Road, and Dobson Commons off Dobson Road, didn't appreciate as much as the older complexes, Wheeler said.

"We had a very depressed condo market in 2000 that had nowhere to go but up," he said. In the last few years "we also had a lot of first-time buyers coming into the market with the low interest rates. It was a frenzy.

"It's not the magical qualities of Vernon that is making this happen," Wheeler added. "Many towns around the state are seeing similar increases" in revaluations.

Motor vehicle assessments, which aren't subject to revaluation, rose just 1.5 percent in the last year, to $160.5 million.

Personal property, which also isn't revalued, declined by almost 1 percent to $73.4 million.

Wheeler says there were two reasons for the decline in personal-property assessments. New exemptions allow manufacturers to take an additional reduction of about 20 percent on certain equipment. Also, two major telecommunications companies took the option of filing their personal-property declaration with the state this year rather than with the town as they had in prior years, he said.

"They fell off my list," Wheeler said, adding that the state will reimburse the town. But as with education cost sharing, there is no guarantee that towns will get what they are due, he said.

The town's top 10 taxpayers haven't changed in recent years, although, like other taxpayers, their assessments have been increased by the revaluation. The top 10 are as follows:

* The Mansions LLC, which owns land and apartments, topped the grand list for the fourth straight year, with an assessment of slightly more than $33.8 million. The Mansions accounts for 1.8 percent of the grand list.

* Javit Asset Partnership, operators of the Tri-City Plaza, $30.2 million, 1.6 percent of the grand list.

* Woodbrook LLC, apartments, $20.2 million, 1.08 percent of grand list.

* Connecticut Water Co., a utility, $19.7 million, 1.06 percent of the grand list.

* Connecticut Light & Power/Yankee Gas Co., utility, $16 million, 0.86 percent of grand list.

* CE Vernon II LLC, shopping center, $15.7 million, 0.84 percent of grand list.

* Chapman Acres, apartments, $9 million, 0.48 million of grand list.

* Kerensky, Schneider Trustees, commercial/residential, $7.1 million, 0.38 percent of grand list.

* Talcottville Development, commercial, $6.08 million, 0.32 percent of grand list.

* One Fifty Five West Main St., apartments, $4 million, 0.21 percent.

Together, the top 10 taxpayers account for over $162.2 million in assessments, or 8 percent of the grand list, officials said.

©Journal Inquirer 2007