Michael Long: Burlington property revaluation is in shambles

This commentary is from Michael Long, a retired English teacher who has lived in Burlington since 1975.

Burlington’s property taxes are an unfair mess. Reassessment aims to change valuations to make them fairer as the market changes and some properties appreciate at a higher rate than others.

This should rarely lead to extreme changes, but this reassessment has made property taxes less fair, no more. The changes in assessed values ​​and taxes owed have been drastic.

My property taxes in Burlington have increased by over 40%, and this after a successful appeal that reduced the increase in reassessed value from 113% to just 100%.

The redistribution of the tax burden on residential properties and on tenants and landlords is particularly outrageous. So much for the words that city hall pays for affordable housing. The distortion of real estate values ​​induced by the pandemic should have been taken into account, and not entrenched in the next ten or twenty years.

More than twice as many commercial property calls resulted in a change (74% vs. 33%) and only half resulted in an increase (3% vs. 6%). The largest reduction in the appraised value of commercial properties on appeal was 58% or $ 8.1 million. The largest residential property reduction on appeal was 16% or $ 476,000.

And beyond a big discount for commercial property owners, there is the most fundamental problem: a revaluation that was done in a sloppy way via driveby and flyover. Most of the assigned values ​​are arbitrary and absurd, just plain wrong.

For example, in the previous valuation, the average value of duplexes on Isham Street and the section of North Willard parallel to it varied only 9%. Many of these properties share a property line and almost all are rental units competing in the same market for tenants. They are also quite similar when it comes to average building size, lot size, and number of bedrooms.

However, in the current reassessment, the difference in average appraisal value between the Isham and Willard duplexes has widened to 38%. In other words, it has more than quadrupled.

It defies logic for properties so identical to appreciate at such different rates. The average increase on Isham is 60%, what I was told is the city average. The average increase on Willard is 103%. And even the gaps are very different.

The living space in the Willard Street duplexes, according to the revaluation, is 31% more valuable than the living space on the west side of the same block, and the land on which these duplexes are located has an incredible 64% value. Given that Willard is a major transportation corridor and high traffic national highway, and Isham is an urban street one block away and with little traffic, it would be plausible to imagine that the land and housing would be more valuable. on Isham. Not according to the reassessment.

These extreme differences suggest that the reassessment of inequity intended to reduce has instead been exacerbated.

The inequality of the values ​​attributed to residential lots is particularly flagrant. A 4,272 square foot lot on Elm Terrace is valued at $ 231,900. An adjoining lot on Adams Street is valued at $ 143,200. That would suggest a smaller lot on Adams, but the Adams lot is 26,608 square feet – six times the size, but rated at 62% smaller. The Mayor’s House on Summit Street, in a prime low-density residential area, sits on land valued at $ 15,500 less than that same Elm Terrace lot, even though the Mayor’s yard is almost three times as much. big.

How can this be? It is not possible, but the reassessment says it is so.

Such wacky and unbearable differences in expertise value do not inspire confidence and do not represent fair taxation. They represent a failed reassessment that cannot be recovered through the appeal process and must be carefully reviewed and corrected.

Every undervalued property results in excess taxes being charged even to precisely appraised properties and imposes truly exorbitant taxes on overvalued properties. The appeal process may improve the accuracy of some overpriced properties, but it does not provide any mechanism to correct for undervaluations to achieve the level of precision required by fairness.

I am pro-tax. I support taxes to fund the schools, parks, streets and services that our community needs, values ​​and believes in. But there is no excuse for unfair taxation or for drastic cuts for some homeowners at the expense of drastic increases for others.

Because reassessment is required by law to be income neutral, for every sky-high increase there are equal and opposing savings that are quietly hidden elsewhere in the system.

Transparency and clear explanations are essential. Taxpayers are required to present evidence to support an appeal. Appraisers often say no to calls from homeowners without any explanation.

Fair dealing requires something very different from what Burlington taxpayers have received here.

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