Saybrook group wants revaluation put on hold

Published: Monday, February 23, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

OLD SAYBROOK — A group of residents is hoping to postpone the implementation of the latest revaluation, saying that the nationwide real estate slump has rendered the values inaccurate.

The Old Saybrook Taxpayers Association is asking the Board of Selectmen to delay putting the revaluation into effect, OSTA Chairwoman Jean Castagno said.

“What we’re asking the selectmen to do is to petition the (state) Office of Policy and Management to rescind the evaluation of 10/1/08 and/or delay it because the economy has changed so dramatically since last September,” Castagno said.

First Selectman Michael Pace said he considered options in case the revaluation was “severely flawed,” but after reviewing housing sales data since the revaluation was completed in October, he believes the values are accurate.

“I did have some concerns that we didn’t get caught in the middle of really a swing cycle here,” Pace said.

Residents and the Board of Selectmen discussed the revaluation at the board’s meeting last week.

State Rep. Marilyn Giuliano, whose district includes Old Saybrook, has introduced a bill to allow towns to postpone revaluations. The bill, which has been referred to the Committee on Planning and Development, does not specify whether it would include towns that recently completed a revaluation.

Pace said he testified before the General Assembly regarding the legislation earlier this month.

State statute requires municipalities to conduct regular property revaluations. A town’s legislative body can choose to phase in the increased assessment over a period of time, according to the statutes.

Property values rose 32 percent in the October revaluation, Assessor Norman Wood said. The process was a statistical revaluation, meaning that it did not involve a physical survey of properties. The revaluation takes place every five years.

Wood said he has monitored prices on the roughly 30 home sales in town since October, and the town’s revised values from October were “within 2 percent of what they sold for.”

“During the summer, it was obvious that the sale prices were sliding a little bit … (but) it hasn’t been as bad here along the shoreline as it has been across the country,” he said. “I started tempering the values in July because it was obvious something was going on.”

He added the town already has a large increase in homeowners appealing their revaluations, with 1,500 people making appointments to discuss the values. Following the last revaluation in 2003, about 550 people appealed, Wood said.

Pace said there would have to be evidence that the revaluation was off by more than 5 percent to ask to delay the implementation.

“Looking at what is the current law to vacate, I don’t think there is any standard that would allow me to go to OPM and say, ‘This revaluation was flawed,’ because the numbers that (the assessor’s office) just did show that it’s not,” he said. “If it’s within the legal ranges, then that’s a decision that I’ll have to make. You don’t always make popular decisions, but you have to make legally correct decisions.”

Castagno said the OSTA group is continuing to meet and is encouraging more residents to get involved. The members meet every Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Acton Public Library, she said.

The group is looking into whether residents can directly petition OPM about the revaluation, Castagno said.

“The interest in delaying this is very, very strong,” she said. “People are very, very angry about the whole thing.”

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