Wilton's grand list inches up

This year’s grand list will not cause any extra tax dollars to be put in the town’s pockets.

With only a modest increase of 0.27%, the 2016 grand list totals $4,316,126,900. That is before being finalized by the Board of Assessment Appeals, which will hear property assessment appeals next month. The 2015 grand list totaled $4,304,570,950.

The grand list, which Assessor David Lisowski filed on Feb. 28, represents the assessed value of all property — real estate, personal property and motor vehicles — in Wilton. It is one of the tools the Board of Finance will use in figuring the mill rate for the fiscal year 2017-18. The board meets for its mill rate discussion Wednesday, March 29, and if needed, Thursday, March 30, and Friday, March 31.

Assessments are 70% of market value based on 2012, when the last revaluation took place. Grand list assessments will affect tax bills for July 1, 2017.

The grand list has been growing very modestly for the past several years. The 2015 grand list grew by only 0.2%, and the year before it was 0.7%, but that was driven by an unusually high collection of penalties. Without that, Lisowski said, the growth would have been closer to 0.45%

Reflecting on the modest growth he said, “Gradually, development has slowed. There’s a fair amount of building permits, but their magnitude is decreasing. That’s what I’m seeing.

“If the town got a development like River Ridge every year — either residential or commercial — in addition to the normal activity, you wouldn’t see [growth] drop and drop and drop.

“Gone are the days when we saw a 20 Westport Road or a 40 Danbury Road developed.

“The only way to grow the grand list is through development of one sort or another. Anything that’s developed, I’m going to assess.”

One event that put a damper on the grand list, he said, was a court ruling in favor of a property assessment appeal brought by Norwalk’s Second Taxing District. That reduced the assessment on 1,167 acres by nearly $8 million. Norwalk’s Second Taxing District owns and operates South Norwalk Electric and Water which serves 9,000 customers in the area with water, including the Silvermine section of Wilton.
Real estate
Residential real estate assessments were up 0.39% at $3,263,108,630. There was very little residential new house construction, Lisowski sid. There were some additions, but no condos and the River Ridge development was complete.

Commercial real estate fared a little better, up 0.73%, totalling $606,198,730. That is because phase two of Wilton Commons came on line and a little more than half of the apartment building on Old Danbury Road was complete. ASML also made some small additions.

Public utility land was down 43.58% at $11,265,940, reflecting the Second Taxing District ruling.

Assessment of vacant land — including residential, commercial and wetland — was $32,468,940, down 1.23%

Figuring in farm land, forest land, open space and nurseries, the real estate total came to $3,913,463,560, up 0.2%.
Personal property
Personal property includes unregistered and registered motor vehicles, machinery, horses and ponies, manufacturing machinery, furniture, farm tools, furniture, cables and conduits as well as other items.

There are 16,031 registered motor vehicles in town assessed at $199,452,520, down 0.39%.

The personal property total, including unregistered motor vehicles, amounted to $266,140,720, a 4.4% increase.

Exemptions amounted to $66,789,800, an increase of 13.34%. The bulk of the exemptions is manufacturing machinery, which is partially reimbursed as a grant from the state. Other exemptions include those for taxpayers who are veterans, blind or totally disabled. Total exemptions are subtracted from the personal property and real estate totals, depending on what kind they are.

Adding to the bottom line are penalties that amounted to $3,859,900. These are penalties levied on commercial property owners who were either late or non-compliant in responding to information requests from the town. This is information the town is allowed to ask for and it helps in figuring the value of their property.

The assessor’s office sent 344 notices of real estate assessment increases to property owners and 673 notices concerning personal property. All property owners had the opportunity to file a petition with the Board of Assessment Appeals, but the deadline was March 20.