News Briefs

Town embarks on townwide reassessment

By Julia Purdy
CHITTENDEN—The Town of Chittenden began a townwide reassessment of real property in July, and officials anticipate the results will be finalized in April or May 2017. Initial field data must be collected by Nov. 1, 2016. The last one was done in 1999.
Town Lister Millie Kimball explained that the frequency of updates depends on two factors: the common level of appraisal (CLA), intended to equalize education taxes statewide, and the coefficient of dispersion, which measures how closely a purchase price matches the assessed value. In accordance with acts 60 and 68, the state wants to see assessments at 100 percent of fair market value, “100 percent of the time,” said Kimball.
As well, fair market value is understood to be the result of an “arm’s length transaction” between buyer and seller. “Towns can’t chase sales,” she added. By law, a new buyer can’t expect the town to adjust the assessment to match the purchase price.
At present, Kimball said, houses valued at over $200,000 are selling for less than the assessed value and houses under $200,000 are selling at closer to the assessed value. The result is taxpayer discontent, although Kimball said that “We try to make sure the values are fair and everyone is treated the same.”
The field work is being carried out by John Tiffany, a former forester, working with NEMRC (New England Municipal Resource Center) out of Georgia, Vt., although Tiffany says he works the length and breadth of the state. NEMRC provides technical assistance to towns in managing their grand lists and current-use tax calculations.
Kimball said the listers “do a circuit” twice a year. Since the town does not require building permits, she said, a lot depends on the listers’ familiarity with the territory. Kimball and Tiffany agreed that delayed reassessments can result in problems and errors. Seated at a table in the Select Board room with his laptop and tables spread out in front of him, Kimball told of the propertyowner (not in Chittenden) who had been paying taxes for five years on a house with a basement listed on the property card in the town office, but in fact the house had no basement, as Tiffany discovered. Unfortunately, the owner had no recourse.
“It’s your responsibility to know what’s on your card,” Kimball stated.
Ed Elliott joined the Chittenden listers’ office in March 2016. “I find it very interesting,” Elliott said. He said he had had a question about his taxes and met with Kimball at the pre-town meeting. Then, “I shanghaied him,” Kimball said. “I couldn’t even contest my taxes!” Elliott added with a laugh.

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