South Burlington

Who can it be knocking at my door? Well, if it’s spring of 2020 and you’re a South Burlington property owner, it could be a surveyor working on the citywide reappraisal. 

At the July 1 meeting, councilors authorized tax assessor Todd LeBlanc to contract for reappraisal services with Tyler Technologies. The citywide reappraisal will be complete in 2021. 

It has been 13 years since the last reappraisal and in that time, disparity has grown between the assessed value of properties and their true value, LeBlanc said. Since the 2006 appraisal – also conducted by Tyler Technologies – LeBlanc said he has seen many homes sell for more than their assessed values. 

“That’s the biggest goal of this appraisal, that after 15 years there’s inequity,” LeBlanc told the city council. He explained that the new assessments will set homes at fair market value. 

The appraisal will cost $389,000, according to the contract. South Burlington will use funds from the state that are earmarked for grand list maintenance and reappraisal, LeBlanc said. Each year, the city receives about $1 per parcel for equalization and $8.50 per parcel for reappraisals, totaling about $75,000 annually in recent years. The city has reserved these funds for several years and has about $500,000 to cover the reappraisal. 

According to LeBlanc, the reappraisal is a means to adjust assessed values to reflect market value. Homes are appraised at fair market value, which considers square footage, features like garages, decks or finished basements and the quality of materials used (such as high-grade windows, chair rails and granite countertops). 

The tax rate is impacted by the assessment, however, if property values increase, the tax rate decreases accordingly, LeBlanc said. 

During the July 1 city council meeting, councilor David Kaufman asked LeBlanc to clarify whether a doubled property value meant doubled property taxes. He said some residents believe that to be the case. LeBlanc said it was not true and that the appraisal adjusts assessed property values.

“You will feel the impact, yes,” LeBlanc said. “Will it double? No.”

He explained that in some cases one neighbor could see their assessed value increase while another could see theirs decrease. For example, if there were two identical homes but one was assessed at $500,000 and the other at $400,000, the reappraisal might determine both their values are $450,000. According to LeBlanc, this type of scenario means that somewhere along the line there was an outside influence that caused the assessed values to differ. In this case, the reappraisal would have revealed that one neighbor was paying too little in property taxes while the other was overpaying them, the new assessed value would adjust the discrepancy. 

The process

Next month, representatives from Tyler Technologies will meet with city officials to begin the process. Over the fall and winter, they’ll gather information on property sales. This will be accomplished using the clerk’s office, Multiple Listing Service and by Googling property listings and sales, among other information sources, according to LeBlanc.  

Tyler Technologies will assess houses at fair market value, which will be based off recent property sales.

“If you grab 60 sales [in a given neighborhood] you know, pretty much, how much a square foot is worth [there],” LeBlanc said. 

Property owners can anticipate assessors knocking on their doors sometime in spring 2020. The workers come unannounced and do not set up tours by appointment. They will try to gain access to a property up to three times, according to LeBlanc. In the event they can’t access a property, a questionnaire will be mailed to the owner. During the assessment, workers will inspect each room of a home or business including attics and basements. They will measure square footage, examine renovations to kitchens and bathrooms, check for finished basements and attics and other elements that impact the value of a home. 

The city and Tyler technologies will work on public relations to keep residents abreast of the process.  

In May of 2021 there will be an informal review process for homeowners to discuss their assessed values. In June of 2021, Tyler Technologies will mail the updated value of properties to owners along with the process for grieving the value. Any grievances will be handled by LeBlanc.

“It’s important that people understand you’re not grieving your taxes,” LeBlanc said. “What they need to look at is, ‘Is this a reasonable estimate of what my house might sell for?’” 

After the grievance period, the new values will take effect. 

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