During a special Town Council meeting Friday morning, the council passed a resolution 4-0 (Councilman Timothy Sweeney was absent) asking the General Assembly to allow the town to delay the revaluation because “the validity of the revaluation results has been called into question,” the resolution reads. State law requires towns to conduct the review every three years, so permission from the legislature is necessary to delay.
“We’ve had a process that is clearly flawed,” said Councilman Halsey Herreshoff. “There are so many wild shifts in different parts of town.”
Indeed, while the valuation conducted by Clipboard saw the overall Bristol property stock decline in value by 11 percent, some homes’ values more than doubled, while others were cut in half.
A home on Courageous Circle, for example, jumped from $1.5 million to $3.48 million. Another on Anthony Avenue increased from $71,700 to $397,070, according to records from the town Property Appraisers’ office. Conversely, a home on Lugent Lane dropped in valuation from $463,480 to $120,000.
A home’s valuation is directly related to how much a homeowner pays in taxes. “If we don’t want a massive change in town services, we need to know what the values are,” Council Chairwoman Mary Parella said. “This year we should use the current valuation and fix it for next year.”
“The discrepancy is so high, it’s our job to look at the lows and the highs,” Councilman Edward Stuart said.
The town has hired a third party — Finnegan Appraisal and Consulting — to analyze Clipboard’s revaluation and determine why there are so many discrepancies, and fix those deemed invalid. The council approved spending $10,000 on the analysis.Should the General Assembly approve the resolution — which council members expect won’t be a problem — Bristol will use the current revaluation to set the fiscal 2015 budget this spring. Finnegan Brothers will continue to evaluate Clipboard’s revaluation and the town will use the repaired valuations in setting the budget next year.
Tax Assessor Chris Belair supported the council’s move, allowing her and Finnegan to fix any errors and shore up the town’s defense should homeowners later challenge the valuations in court.
“There’s no reason a house should go up 125 percent, unless you’re building a mansion where a shack was,” Belair told the council. “The whole purpose (of the third-party analysis) is not just to make the tax base equitable. It’s also to make sure you’re doing it right and you can defend it. You need to be able to say why a house went up.”
Clipboard president Owen Hartman has previously defended his company’s methodology and noted homeowners are welcome to appeal their valuations.