Reval implementation put off

ORANGE - The Orange Board of Selectman unanimously voted to postpone revaluation data until Oct. 1 2006, avoiding a potentially crippling property tax increase for residents.

Revaluation data shows that real residential property value has increased by 65 percent on average, while assessments of commercial property show just a 25 percent increase. At a time when residents are on the threshold of a costly winter for home-heating, a hike in property taxes would have only added to that burden.

"This is good for the people at this time," said First Selectman James Zeoli. "But by doing this it offsets the revaluation."

In putting off the revaluation implementation, the board of selectman is hoping that residential values will decrease, and commercial and industrial values will increase.

Selectman Mitchell Goldblatt sad he hopes the gap between commercial and residential property values will decrease. He said that one way of doing that would be to build a stronger commercial and industrial tax base.

"One year is not going to ease the entire thing, but at least this year people's taxes will be based on a normal budget process," Goldblatt said.

Connecticut state law says that municipalities must do a revaluation every five years. However, municipalities are granted the option of taking zero, one or two years to defer the findings. According to the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, 37 have opted to delay revaluations.

A Newbury, Mass. firm, JF Ryan and Associates, did the revaluation work for the town beginning in September 2004 at a cost of $144,000.

The Federal Reserve in 2006 is expected to raise interest rates, a move that traditionally drives home values down.

"It certainly appears that residential property values have started to level off," said former First Selectman Robert Sousa, speaking as a member of the public, at the meeting. "If that continues, there might be a savings for the tax payers. If we give it a year, residential values will level off."

Data prepared by the selectmen indicate that residential property values overall jumped from just under $900 million in 2004, to nearly $1.5 billion in 2005, while commercial real estate only rose from $360 million to $440 million in that same one-year span.

"I agree with postponing the revaluation," said Grannis Road resident Bob Annacelli. "It will give seniors and those on a fixed income a break."