Middlebury prepares for new town-wide reappraisal

MIDDLEBURY — Professional appraisers next month will begin fanning throughout Middlebury to assign updated values to all properties in the community.
It’s all part of Middlebury’s first town-wide reappraisal since 2005. This state-mandated project calls on communities to adjust property tax assessments to fair market value and “bring all properties into an equitable state,” according to longtime Middlebury Assessor Bill Benton.
The town of Middlebury has hired New England Municipal Resources Center (NEMRC) of Georgia., Vt., to complete its town-wide reappraisal; it is expected to take 18 months. During that time, a handful of NEMRC appraisers will visit all of the community’s property owners. The appraisers will request a walk-through of the home or business. If denied, they will update the record based on an exterior inspection of the property.
As always, residents will have an opportunity to contest, or “grieve,” their new property appraisal if they believe it isn’t fair and have some evidence to back it up.
The need for a reappraisal is being driven by a widening gap between what local homes are currently fetching in the marketplace, versus how those homes are currently being assessed by the town.
“Currently, our residential assessments are about 88 percent of market value and commercial properties are less than that,” Benton stated in a recent Q&A flyer explaining Middlebury’s reappraisal process. “The reappraisal will eliminate differences in property classes and catch up on renovations and interior changes that have not been assessed since 2005.”
Benton also cited Middlebury’s Common Level of Appraisal (CLA) as another factor in calling for the reappraisal. The CLA is an equalization ratio used to adjust the assessed value of property within a municipality to its estimated fair market value. Each municipality’s CLA is used to calculate its actual homestead and non-residential education property tax rates. If a town’s CLA falls below 80 percent, it’s definitely time for a reappraisal, according to Benton, who estimates Middlebury’s could fall below that threshold by 2019.
“I could see it coming,” Benton said during a Thursday phone interview. “The timing seems to be appropriate.”
Dwellings, according to Benton, will be assessed using a market-derived-cost system that considers such factors as gross living area, building quality, condition, and the contributory value of amenities such as garages, porches, finished basement and outbuildings.
Commercial properties are valued in a similar fashion, Benton noted. If a commercial property includes income generation, an “income approach” to value using net income capitalization, or gross rent multiplier, will be used as well, he said.
Fortunately, the town has banked enough money to pay for the reappraisal, estimated at $236,000, according to Middlebury Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay. Vermont towns receive a per-parcel payment each year from the state of Vermont to maintain a reappraisal fund.
Ed Clodfelter will be heading NEMRC’s reappraisal work in Middlebury. As luck would have it, Clodfelter oversaw the town’s last reappraisal in 2005, according to Benton.
Benton anticipates NEMRC will have four or five of its staff on the job at any given time. And Middlebury is advertising for a temporary, part-time assistant to work in the listers office during the reappraisal. The new hire’s duties will include setting up appointments for appraisal inspections and “other clerical duties as needed.” Officials hope to have the new assistant on board later this month for what will be a two-year run.
Once all the property visits are done, NEMRC and town officials will send change-of-assessment notices to residents in June of 2019. Officials will then schedule grievance hearings.
Residents shouldn’t necessarily expect to see their property taxes rise as a result of the reappraisal, according to Benton.
“A reappraisal is intended to level the playing field of assessments and bring everyone into equity,” he said. “The majority of assessments will increase and the grand list will increase. All other things being equal, the municipal tax rate should be reduced by the same percentage that the grand list increases.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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