Taxpayers sue town over 'excessive' assessment
Thirteen property owners have filed lawsuits against the Town of New Canaan following the latest revaluation.
The taxpayers, all of whom had previously appealed to the town's Board of Assessment Appeals, claim their assessments are "grossly excessive, disproportionate and unlawful."
At least half of the properties in the lawsuits are valued at more than $2 million. Several of them had the assessment reduced during the appeals process in April, but the changes did not seem to satisfy those taxpayers.
Tax Assessor Sebastian Caldarella said the lawsuits are common after a revaluation takes place. The latest was conducted in 2013.
A revaluation is a state-mandated process of performing market analysis and assessments to determine accurate and equitable values for all properties in town. The purpose of a revaluation, which is conducted every five years, is to create an equitable distribution of the tax burden.
Caldarella said 13 is a low number and that two of those lawsuits have already been withdrawn. It is likely, he said, that many other property owners would file lawsuits in the upcoming months.
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After the previous revaluation, in 2008, about 37 taxpayers filed lawsuits against the town, he said. Seventeen of them did so the year following the revaluation -- 2009 -- but others did so in 2010 or later.
Caldarella said three of those have not been settled yet, as many cases take three or four years to be resolved. "Sometimes it takes forever," he said.
According to the Tax Assessor's office, 285 appeals were filed this year. The Board of Assessment Appeals reduced 187 of them and increased two. Ninety-six appealed assessments were not changed.
Although the assessed value of downtown properties saw the biggest increase after the revaluation, most of the lawsuits are from "the outskirts," as Caldarella put it. However, Elm Street appears three times on the list, including 272 Elm St., where TD Bank is located.
Caldarella said the sale prices of properties in the months following the revaluation have been about 90 or 95 percent of the town's assessed value. "That shows in a sense how decent the revals were," he said.
The assessor said he doesn't believe all the current lawsuits are warranted, but he said "it is their right to appeal."
"When the margin is so slim, why even bother?" Caldarella said, noting that the lawsuit process may cost more than the property taxes themselves.
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