Thursday, February 5, 2009

What’s your home worth?

Register Citizen Staff
TORRINGTON — In a seemingly bad housing market, some residents are questioning how their properties could be revalued at 30 percent higher than their value 10 years ago.
Torrington residents began receiving their property revaluations earlier this week from Waterbury-based Total Valuation Services. The state-mandated full physical revaluation began last year with homes being assessed for their worth according to the market value. Other factors are considered for the price increase, including sale percentages, state average index, home improvements and home additions, said Mayor Ryan Bingham.
The city does not have a percentage figure on the overall increase, but Bingham said there have been homes with a zero percent increase and others with a 30 or 40 percent increase.
“There’s definitely been concerns from residents,” Bingham said. “And they’re definitely valid concerns.”
The reassessment value is incumbent upon the city mill rate, which is measured by the city budget. In a hypothetical situation if everyone in the city received a 30 percent increase in their property values, and the city had a zero percent increase in the budget, the mill rate would go down 30 percent, Bingham said. Property taxes, as a result, would then remain low.
If the city does not succeed in keeping their spending down, however, residents could see their taxes go up, depending on the revaluated price of their homes. The official mill rate for Torrington will not be determined until May, Bingham said.
Torrington resident Laurie Canty said her home was revalued at $195,580, up 21 percent from $162,200 in 1999. Canty said she is not panicking, however, because the last time the city mill rate went down enough to only raise her taxes a little.
The $195,580 assessment is, however, concluded after multiplying the total 2008 market value by 70 percent.
“They’re telling me my market value is actually 30 percent higher,” Canty said. “Which I find hard to believe, because of this market.”
Bill Fairchild, husband to Parks and Recreation Committee member Patricia Fairchild, said their home was revalued at $190,000, up from $135,000 ten years ago. Bill Fairchild said the 40 percent increase “seemed odd,” and that he is going to find out more information on it.
Fairchild has owned the property for 30 years and he said the previous revaluation did not seem as high.
“I don’t recall exactly,” he said. “I don’t think it was quite as dramatic as this.”
In an attempt to avoid the burden of higher taxes, Bingham asserted that the city would do its part to keep the budgets and spending low. The bad economic climate, however, is making the process difficult, Bingham said, and the reality is “grim.”
Despite the difficulty of the process, it is mandated by the state, he said.
“We have no choice, and it’s not something that I want to do,” Bingham said. “I will do everything I can do on the budget end of things to have minimal impact on the people’s tax rates.”
Better contract negotiations, spending freezes and the mayor giving up his city car are all areas where the city is looking to reduce spending, Bingham said. Any resident who had questions about the process should contact the mayor’s office, the tax assessor or the number provided on their assessment sheet, Bingham said.
Ronald DeRosa can be reached by e-mail at torrington


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