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Weston’s grand list grows by just 0.18%

The town’s net grand list has grown by $4.7 million, a 0.18% increase, compared with a 0.73% increase in actual growth last year and 0.43% the year before.

“All of the growth came from residential real estate, which makes up about 94% of the total grand list,” said Ken Whitman, Weston’s assessor.

The net grand list, a compilation of all taxable property in town as of Oct. 1, 2012, is $2,660,640,912. That’s $4,719,326 more than the 2011 grand list of $2,655,921,586. In comparison, last year the grand list increased by more than $19 million.

Mr. Whitman noted the 0.18% increase in the grand list “is disappointing after the overall improvement in the year-over-year increases of the last three years.”

First Selectman Gayle Weinstein echoed Mr. Whitman’s disappointment in the lack of grand list growth. She noted that while conveyance fees are “way up” and building fees are up, “we just haven’t seen that translate into grand list growth yet.”

“Growth in the town’s taxable grand list allows the tax levy — the amount of money the town needs to raise from taxation — to be spread across a wider tax base, thereby reducing potential increases in the mill rate,” Mr. Whitman explained. The current increase in the grand list would effectively lessen the increase in the mill rate by about $.04.

The annual mill (or tax) rate is determined after the fiscal year’s budget is completed and all known revenue sources are projected, with the exception of tax revenue. The town then determines the value of a mill, which is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value on the grand list. The mill rate is derived by dividing the town’s grand levy (its debt) by the town’s grand list.

The grand list is made up of real estate, personal property and motor vehicle assessments.

Real estate

Real estate assessments make up the bulk — 95%, with residential real estate accounting for 94% — of Weston’s grand list and are figured at 70% of Oct. 1, 2008, real market value.

Revaluation of real estate assessments must take place every five years, so Weston is preparing to re-assess property values later this year.

Ms. Weinstein said reval is a “big concern,” since lower assessments would mean a higher mill rate. This is one reason why she has been working to keep budget increases “as flat as possible” over the last several years, she said, so that reval “doesn’t send the mill rate skyrocketing.”

Net real estate assessments total $2,524,568,550, an increase of $5.6 million or 0.22% from last year’s total of $2,518,982,600.

This increase is due entirely to improvements to residential buildings, Mr. Whitman said.

Business personal property

Net personal property assessments grew 9.9% from the previous grand list, compared to the 1.1% growth seen last year.

Personal property includes commercial and industrial furniture, fixtures and machinery. These assessments are generally based on 70% of depreciated acquisition costs.

Mr. Whitman said the main reason for the increase in personal property assessments was the replacement of power lines in town after Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

Personal property assessments total $21,149,969, which is $1,905,253 more than last year’s total of $19,244,716.

Mr. Whitman said there are 273 business accounts in Weston, down just a few from last year’s 278.

Motor vehicles

Mr. Whitman said last year’s exceptional increase in the motor vehicle grand list, due in part to deep discounts offered by manufacturers, created a falloff in new vehicle replacements in 2012, causing the motor vehicle grand list to fall for the first time since 2009.

Net motor vehicle assessments are down 2.36%, a decrease of $2,771,877, to $114,922,393. These assessments were up 5.57% on the previous list, and up 3.39% the year before that.

This year, the Department of Motor Vehicles reported Westonites own 8,780 vehicles, 26 fewer than last year.

Motor vehicle assessments are based on 70% of average retail value. Pricing guides provided by the National Automobile Dealers Association are used to determine value. The state Office of Policy Management recommends the use of these guides.

Top taxpayers

Mr. Whitman said that, as in prior years, Weston’s top taxpayer is Connecticut Light & Power, with real and personal property assessments totaling $13,934,770, followed by Aspetuck Valley Country Club with $10,219,440, and Aquarion Water Co. with $6,946,650.

Appeals

The town’s new 2012 grand list will not be final until the Board of Assessment Appeals concludes its hearings and decides what changes, if any, will be made to the assessments that are appealed.

Weston’s real property, personal property and supplemental motor vehicle appeals will be heard in March. The filing deadline to have an appeal heard is Wednesday, Feb. 20, at 4:30 p.m.

Appeals for real estate must be based on the Oct. 1, 2008, valuation date. Current sales are not valid and will not be considered. A list of sales used in the 2008 revaluation are posted on the town website, westonct.gov.

Applications are available in the Weston assessor’s office at town hall.

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