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Wilton grand list drops 17%

Wilton Assessor David Lisowski presented the 2012 grand list to the Board of Finance last week and it was not surprise the total was down 17.04% from 2011. The reason was the revaluation process that reduced property values by about the same amount. Neighboring towns that conducted revaluations last year saw similar declines.

The 2012 grand list, which is an inventory of all taxable property as of Oct. 1, 2012, totaled $4,238,142,000. That is the total of real property, personal property and motor vehicle assessments in Wilton. The 2011 total  — finalized by the Board of Assessment Appeals — was $5,112,946,800.

The subtotals are as follows:

• Real property — $3,847,471,240

• Personal property — $197,566,520

• Motor vehicles — $193,104,240

Of the real property, residential accounted for the majority of the total over commercial. Residential properties, which included 5,359 homes and 522 condominiums as well as lots, excess acreage, and outbuildings such as pools, barns or detached garages, amounted to $3,187,561,690, a 20.07% decrease from the previous year.

Commercial property, which included 185 commercial buildings and three apartment complexes, amounted to $598,647,770, an 11.46% decrease from the previous year.

Vacant land, both residential and commercial, as well as wetlands, amounted to $39,248,230.

Farmland, forest land, open space, and nurseries fall under a separate category and were valued at $455,640.

The motor vehicle assessment was 1.10% below last year’s. There is far less discrepancy here, since motor vehicles are assessed each year, as opposed to real property, which is reassessed every five years. This year’s grand list included 16,364 vehicles.

Personal property increased 15.76%. “A good portion of the increase is equipment that is exempt from taxation,” Mr. Lisowski said. That includes new machinery, which is granted tax-exempt status by a state statute.

Three companies were the major contributors to this increase: Bridgewater Associates on Westport Road, AIG on Danbury Road, and ASML, also on Danbury Road. ASML added manufacturing equipment, while Bridgewater Associates and AIG added computers.

“The net for personal property is 11.78% without the exemption,” Mr. Lisowski said.

One interesting item is the line for cables and conduits, which amounts to $95.7 million, up from $95.1 million in 2011. This includes power lines owned by CL&P, which normally would show a decline because of depreciation. But there was an increase, Mr. Lisowski said, due to the “significant replacement” of wires following the 2011 storm Irene and the October nor’easter.

Appeals

The last day for petitions to appeal an assessment to be returned to the assessor’s office was Wednesday, Feb. 20. As of Tuesday morning, Feb. 19, Mr. Lisowski said, 64 petitions had been taken from his office with 15 having been returned. This is far less than in the last revaluation, in 2007, when 380 petitions were taken and 320 were returned and hearings were held.

Although there were still two days left for petitions to be handed in, given the small number in play as of Tuesday, Mr. Lisowski said, he did not expect any assessment adjustments to change the grand list’s bottom line dramatically.

“There were no major commercial properties as of last Thursday that took out petitions,” he said.

Mr. Lisowski and the Board of Assessment Appeals will now work out hearing dates, and property owners will be notified by March 1. Property owners will then be able to present their case as to why their assessment is not accurate.

When the revaluation notices were sent out in December, property owners were offered an informal hearing with a representative of the revaluation company. Mr. Lisowski said 150 to 175 informal hearings took place.

“There were some changes as a result of those meetings,” Mr. Lisowski said.

When the Board of Assessment Appeals concludes its hearings and makes any adjustments, Mr. Lisowski will refine the list and give it to the Board of Finance, which will then set the mill rate. The board has mill rate meetings set for April 2-4.

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