In accordance with Connecticut General Statutes, the Town of Westport is conducting a real property revaluation as required for the Grand List of October 1, 2020. This revaluation will correspond to the tax bills that will be due beginning in July 2021.The project started in January 2020. Property information will be obtained from data mailers, inspections of building permits and data analysis.
The Purpose of a Revaluation
The main purpose of a revaluation is to develop accurate and uniform assessments among real estate, based on fair market value. This, in turn, will generate an equitable tax base throughout the town and ensure that the tax burden will be fairly distributed among Westport taxpayers. A revaluation is a revenue neutral process. Meaning that the amount of taxes the town needs to collect is based on the budget, regardless of whether or not a revaluation takes place. What is likely to change is the amount of taxes individual taxpayers pay, based on the property value shifts that occur every five years. July 2021 will be the first tax payments impacted by this revaluation.
The Revaluation Process
Revaluation is a long process required by state law, one that will take almost two years to complete between the start of the process and the payment of the first tax bills after the revaluation. The Town of Westport asks for patience during this process.
This process began in May 2019 when the Town of Westport undertook a Request for Proposal to solicit proposals from state certified revaluation firms. The company selected was Vision Government Solutions Inc. (Vision) of Hudson, Massachusetts. Vision also performed Westport’s revaluations in 2005, 2010 and 2015. They have been in business for over 30 years, and have performed over one hundred Connecticut revaluations. Some of Vision’s senior-most staff will be involved in Westport’s 2020 revaluation.
There are five major phases to a municipal revaluation: 1) Data Collection, 2) Market Analysis, 3) Valuation, 4) Field Review, and 5) Informal and Formal Appeal Hearings. Many tasks will be implemented during these phases in order to complete the revaluation.
Phase 1 - Data Collection
Westport’s 2020 revaluation will be a “Data verification” type revaluation. Westport’s last revaluation in 2015 was a “Full inspection” type revaluation in which the revaluation staff visited most properties in the town to verify exterior structural data and conduct interior inspections. The 2020 revaluation involves revaluation staff viewing sales data properties and properties with building permits and sending out data mailers to homeowners.
Vision inspectors will wear safety vests and carry badges identifying them as Vision employees and will carry written documentation from the town stating their affiliation with the project. Vision employees and their vehicles are registered with the Westport Police Department and the Assessor’s Office.
If homeowners have a question as to the identity of a Vision employee, they may call the Westport Police Department’s non-emergency number (203-341-6000). They may also contact Vision’s Westport Project Manager (1-800-628-1013, Ext. 3621) or the Town of Westport Assessor’s Office (203-341-1070) with any questions or concerns.
Due to the COVID-19 virus, a Vision inspector will only go by appointment to properties that have sold, have building permits or been previously sent a notification. While there, they will note any new features as well as the building size, age, quality, condition, land topography, utilities, and other characteristics. The entire process should take approximately 15 minutes for most.
The Town of Westport and Vision fully understand the sensitivities of the interior inspection process. Thus, the inspector may measure the exterior of the home and then send a “call back letter” asking them to contact Vision and set up an appointment. The inspector may also ask that the homeowner do a FaceTime meeting instead of an actual inspection. If someone other than the owner is home, the inspector will not inspect the home without the owner's permission.
It is to everyone’s advantage that the town’s real estate database is as accurate as possible. Updating exterior images will also be part of this project.
Homeowners should direct specific questions regarding their current assessment and taxes to the Westport Assessor’s Office. Vision inspectors are not prepared to answer questions concerning current values or town laws. The Vision inspector's purpose is to verify and gather information. 2020 values and taxes resulting from this revaluation will be determined later during the valuation phase and after the mill rate is set in 2021.
Phase 2 - Market Analysis
Varieties of resources are used to analyze the real estate market. Appraisal personnel will be analyzing property sales over the course of the past two years to determine which market factors influence property values. Once all the data has been collected and reviewed for accuracy, appraisers will determine land values and define neighborhoods. The valuation of locations throughout the town is determined by actual market activity.
Phase 3 - Valuation
Valuation is done using three recognized appraisal methods: the Cost Approach, the Income Approach and the Sales Comparison Approach. During this phase, individual characteristics of buildings are analyzed using information gathered in both phases 1 and 2. Each property is compared to other properties with similar characteristics. The contributory market value of improvements is added to the previously determined land values. This value is the final estimate for each parcel of property, including building and land.
Phase 4 - Field Review
Field Review is the method of re-checking both the values that have been determined and the data that has been collected. During this review, properties are viewed in the field by experienced appraisers who double-check uniformity and accuracy of information.
Phase 5- Informal and Formal Appeal Hearings
In November 2020, property owners will receive a notice of their new assessment. All assessments will be available online to allow taxpayers to view surrounding properties. Taxpayers may request an informal hearing with Vision staff members if they wish to discuss their new assessments. The informal hearing is the first step in the appeal process if the property owner feels their assessment is inaccurate. The informal hearings will take place in late November and during December 2020. A follow-up notice will be mailed to owners who participate in an informal hearing, showing any change to the assessment.
All owners will receive another assessment notice in early 2021. Owners who wish to appeal their assessment will have the opportunity to do so at Board of Assessment Appeals hearings. This formal appeal process is undertaken annually guided by state statute.
After all five phases are completed, all data, files, records, etc. used in the revaluation will be given to the Assessor’s Office. This will allow the town to maintain the data collected and values determined during the revaluation on a continual basis.