When the final numbers came in, the 2010 Grand List had done just what town officials hoped it would not do: lose nearly 10 percent of its value.
The decline shown in the full revaluation of Clinton properties – a loss of $160.5 million in value – will require a 2.4 mill increase in the town’s tax rate just to cover the loss, First Selectman Willie Fritz said.
Assessor Donna Sempey said the decline in real estate assessments reflected a housing market that has been struggling in a poor economy, with fewer sales and those – other than waterfront homes - occurring at lower prices.
“It can only get better from here,” she said.
While Fritz didn’t welcome the result, he also said it isn’t catastrophic.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean taxes are going up, because property values are going down. There’s no implication, tax-wise, for many people,’ he said.
The greatest difficulty, he said, may be in creating public understanding that the change in the tax rate will occur almost entirely because of the loss of the taxable value of the Grand List.
At the moment, Fritz projects that the tax rate will increase 2.4 mills from the Grand List decline, and another 0.61 mills to pay for the new town and school budgets. Once the tax collection rate and revenue numbers are tweaked, he says, “It’s going to be better than that.”
Still, the decline in the Grand List may be the greatest in town history.
Recent records show that the Grand List has gained value, usually in small increments, every year since 1992, where it experienced a very slight decrease.
But over the past three years, as the local real estate market suffered through the economic malaise that gripped the nation, the Grand List has struggled to break even, and officials expressed relief that it performed even that well.
In 2008, the Grand List’s value increased by just 0.14 percent, and it rose by 0.16 percent in 2009, a sharp contrast to the 70 percent gain it saw in a booming real estate market in 2005, the second largest gain since a 97 percent increase in the 1990 revaluation year.
As in 1990, the new Grand List results from a full revaluation of town properties by Vision Appraisal of Northborough, Ma., after town officials decided not to postpone the work from its scheduled year after weighing a number of factors, including the likely increased cost of a delayed revaluation, Fritz said.
Overseeing her first revaluation since succeeding Chris Barta as assessor, Sempey said most towns who went ahead with revaluations in 2010 saw a decline in value, anywhere from 12.4 percent in Westport to 7.5 percent in Deep River to 0.82 percent in Haddam.
“The Trumbull assessor told us that they likely would have had an 18-20 percent decrease if they hadn’t postponed it,” she said.
Clinton’s net total Grand List amounted to $1,494,545,983 in 2010, a 9.8 percent decline from 2009. Real property assessments were down 10 percent to $1.35 billion, although Sempey said some waterfront properties increased in value by $200-400,000 as a result of strong sales and condominium values held their ground.
Personal property values declined five percent, to $53.4 million, partly influenced by the departure of Stanley Bostich Co., she said. But motor vehicle values showed strength, perhaps from incentive purchase programs by automotive manufacturers, in climbing to $88 million, or some $5 million higher than the prior year.
The town’s top ten taxpayers are: Chelsea GC Realty Partnership (Clinton Crossing), $42.73 million; Chesebrough-Ponds (Unilever), $22.11 million; Connecticut Water Co., $16.69 million; JMH Associates (Stop & Shop property), $8.4 million; NPNC LLP (Shoprite commercial property), $7.9 million; Connecticut Light & Power, $7.7 million; CIM LLC (Cedar Island Marina), $4.9 million; Hammocks Development Co., $4.79 million; Kent Home Assoc., $3.57 million; and MJM Self Storage of Clinton, $3.22 million.