Will Your Taxes Go Up?

As Mayor John DeStefano prepares to give his first public address on a confusing property revaluation, taxpayers wondering whether to expect ballooning tax bills can get some clues—if they know which numbers to avoid.

The answer won’t officially be revealed until aldermen vote on a budget in May, but you can start to get a sense by taking a peek at your latest revaluation notice.

East Rock Alderman Justin Elicker, who represents the neighborhood that’s due to be hit hardest by the revaluations, offers a clear explanation of the complicated process in a five-and-a-half-minute Youtube video released Monday, complete with explanatory graphics. Click on the play arrow at the top of the story to watch.

Mayor John DeStefano will offer his own explanation at a public meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. at Hillhouse High School. Click here for a draft of the PowerPoint presentation he plans to give. It is the first of several planned neighborhood presentations.

The public addresses come with the latest revaluation of all city property, which is now required by state law every five years. Inspectors from Vision Appraisal examined residential and commercial property over the course of the year, looked at property sales and commercial income, and came up with a number that’s supposed to represent the “fair market value” of each building. That new number will be the basis for municipal property tax calculations.

City of New HavenThe revaluation will send relief to some taxpayers and will shock others, as property values in some sections of the city rose as much as 55 percent. Check out the chart to see how the revaluation affected various neighborhoods. East Rock saw the highest increases in value, while some places like Newhallville saw marked drops.

Without knowing the tax rate yet, you can still get a sense of whether you should rejoice—or bite the bullet—this tax season.

Overall, city property values rose an average of 9.2 percent.

That’s comparing the new revaluation to the assessment on which your current taxes are based, which is a partial phase-in of the 2006 property revaluation. (Back story: The 2006 revaluation, done during the peak of the housing bubble, rocked the city because home values rose so high since the previous revaluation in 2001. Instead of implementing the full whack, the city decided to phase in the increase over five years. The city ended up freezing the phase-in at year two, or 40 percent of the increase, because raising homeowners’ tax bills was not politically viable.)

Justin Elicker GraphicTo figure out how much your assessment is going up, Elicker advises taking out last year’s tax bill. First, look at the “Net Assessment” (It’s circled in red on this graphic he prepared.)

Second, go to your new revaluation notice. Look for the “current assessed value” (also circled in red). If you didn’t get the paper notice in the mail yet, you can find it now at VisionAppraisal.com.

Now compare those two numbers. Did the assessment rise by more than 9.2 percent? If so, then you should see the tax burden shift toward you (a likely tax hike). If not, you should see the burden shift away from you (a possible tax reduction).

Justin Elicker GraphicNota bene: Don’t be fooled by the “FY 2006 Assessment” number, which appears on the Vision Appraisal website and on the paper notices. That refers to the 2006 revaluation, which was never fully phased in. If you use that number, you might feel a false hope that your taxes will go down. The true comparison isn’t between 2011 and 2006, but between the 2011 and the partial phase-in of the 2006 revaluation, which is closer to the value from 2001.

For example, DeStefano offered figures on a house on Girard Avenue in the East Shore. The revaluation went down since 2006, but the homeowner’s value for tax purposes is rising. Below are the assessed values of the house (70 percent of the fair market value) over the past decade.

2001 Revaluation: $84,530
2006 Revaluation: $147,000
2010 Phase-in (40% of the increase between 2001 and 2006): $109,578
2011 Revaluation: $119,210

The final value was based on the house selling on Jan. 31, 2011 for $180,000. The house was valued at $170,000, so the assessed value is $119,210.

As you can see, the value dropped from 2006, but actually rose by 8.8 percent since the 2010 phase-in.

Theoretically, that person could see his or her taxes drop, because the increase in value was less than the average of 9.2 percent. That’s a tough assumption to make right now, however, the mayor cautioned last week. Theoretically, if the city needs to raise only the same amount of money as last year, it could accomplish that with a lower tax rate. But city spending could go up, and other sources of revenue could go down, causing the city to rely more heavily on property taxes.

Another X factor is whether aldermen will phase in the revaluation, as they did the last time around. One option is to fully implement the revaluation for those whose properties fell in value, while phasing in the revaluation for those whose property values rose, DeStefano said last week.

If the city wants to freeze the revaluation entirely, it would need state approval, he said.

What about businesses?

Some argue that businesses have paid an undue share of taxes over the past decade: Businesses never got a break on personal property taxes— business equipment (along with motor vehicles) has been reassessed every year. And commercial property values have risen more slowly than residential values, so businesses end up paying more taxes when the city delays implementation of revaluations.

As Elicker explains, your tax bill is entirely dependent on the size of the city budget aldermen decide upon in May. Aldermen set a budget, figure out how much other revenue there is, then decide how much tax revenue they need to raise. (In the video, Elicker uses the number $222,000,000. That refers to FY2011’s tax levy, or the total amount of revenue in the city budget that’s raised from property taxes.) Then they set a tax rate.

The current tax rate is 43.9 mills. That means taxpayers pay $43.90 in taxes for every $1,000 of assessed value (that’s 70 percent of the value of your property). The mill rate may change, depending on what aldermen decide to do. Once they set the mill rate, you can multiply that by your tax assessment, and you’ll get your tax bill, which should be mailed out in June.

Meanwhile, DeStefano plans to address the topic at six public hearings:

●  7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 8 at Hillhouse High School, 480 Sherman Pky.
●  2 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10 at St. Bernadette’s Hall, 385 Townsend Ave.
●  7:30 p.m., Monday, Dec. 12 at Edgewood School, 737 Edgewood Ave.
●  7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 13 at Bishop Woods School, 1481 Quinnipiac Ave.
●  7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 14 at Celentano School, 400 Canner St.
●  7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 15 at Career High School, 140 Legion Ave.

Previous coverage of the revaluation:

East Rock Braces For Reval Sticker Shock
Reval A Gift To Some, Will Sock Others

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posted by: j on December 6, 2011  3:13pm

One option is to fully implement the revaluation for those whose properties fell in value, while phasing in the revaluation for those whose property values rose.
That should increase the mill rate?

That’s asking the poor to subsidize the rich (house rich). Sounds like another lawsuit coming if that happens..

posted by: cedarhillresident on December 6, 2011  3:17pm

I really love our alderman :)

posted by: Elaine Braffman on December 6, 2011  3:52pm

I just find it difficult to think that anyone’s property has increased in value in this market and this city.
In some sections of the city the property value rose as high as 55%??? Can’t imagine such a finding.

posted by: Bill Saunders on December 6, 2011  5:15pm


Actually, it is just the opposite.  The “house poor” are getting the immediate break, and the “house rich” are subsidizing them through the increase in tax revenues from the phase-in. But you are right that that proposed practice is probably not legal.

As for the Mil Rate, if the Reval netted a 9.2% increase in assessed value, in a static system, the New Mil Rate would decrease by 9.2%, from 43.9 Mils to 39.86 Mils. 

However, the system is not static because Government Spending is always on the rise, while property values rise and fall with market conditions, and the cups get shifted accordingly in an attempt at fairness. 

Alderman Elicker’s assertion that The Board sets the “tax rate” is slightly mis-leading.  The Board approves the spending, the tax rate is a resultant number obtained by performing simple math. 

What usually happens is “Mil Rate Management 101”, where spending is increased so as to NOT lower the Mil Rate, and the Re-Evalution is
blamed—A veritable game of Three-Card Monte where the House always wins.

Spending is the thief.  Cut it!!!!

posted by: Anderson Scooper on December 6, 2011  5:28pm

@ Elaine,

That’s not a change from 2006. It’s a change from the 2001 values, after the phase-in towards the 2006 values, which were never reached.

What needs to be pointed out is that EAST ROCK is not about to be HIT HARD. Instead it’s about to be finally paying its FAIR SHARE! Why should a $500,000 home be taxed as if it’s only worth $350,000? Thanks to the phase-in and subsequent freeze, that’s what has happened these past several years, at the not-so-obvious expense of parts of the city that didn’t boom, (think commercial real estate), and car tax payers as well.

Surprising to me is that the cities aren’t working with the unions towards statewide property tax reform, a change which would make the state of Connecticut much more economically healthy. Right now the disadvantages often out-weigh the advantages of city living, with sky-high property taxes on top of crime, poverty, and less regarded schools.


PS—Thanks to Justin!

posted by: davecoon on December 6, 2011  5:28pm

I appreciate this video by Justin.  I would never have figured out the 9.2% on my own.

posted by: HhE on December 6, 2011  7:33pm

The link to Vision Appraisals’ web sight it quite helpful I learned that my roof is asphalt Silly me, I thought it was slate .Funny thing, the photo they took seams to show a slaye roof too.  Must have quarried that asphalt in Vermont.

posted by: cedarhillresident on December 6, 2011  8:34pm

I can not complain…but :)
my house grew! not by alot but it grew! Luckly I printed out my vision appraisal page the day before it changed. only by 100sf but still what did it eat donuts and candy for the past 4 years?

I also have to wonder how does the land value increase to everyone play into all of this? And this replacement value thing?

posted by: davecoon on December 6, 2011  10:03pm

I could be wrong, but I would think that that would be a mistake in your favor. I purely valuation terms…

posted by: HhE on December 6, 2011  11:32pm

Davecoon, my inner Celt (if not my inner snob) is perfectly okay with the tax man thinking I have an asphalt roof.  The performance of Vision Appraisals does not impresses me given that they cannot tell one from the other, even if their photo is fairly clear. 

On my Dad’s house, they thought the faux slate was real.  That is a much easier mistake to make, but given the roofs in place ten years ago on both houses, it suggests to me that Vision Appraisals is too lazy to look, and just record what was there last go around.

I guess I better not tell them about my Aga.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 6, 2011  11:52pm

I got three out of state sucks comming this week to look at my house.

posted by: richgetricher on December 7, 2011  12:47am

Hope they decide to just implement the full reval. for next year. The average 9.2 percent gain is not dramatic. And it’s time to end the shell game. Set the values for 5 years so at least we have that straight. A phase-in is just another confusing question mark.

posted by: robn on December 7, 2011  9:14am

If the mayor, the BOA an legislators fail to buffer an outrageous tax increase upon these neighborhoods (anomalous and a product of a topsey turvey economy and city overspending) they are all toast in the next election because formerly undereducated and politically passive renters will get religion with significant rent hikes.

posted by: anon on December 7, 2011  11:33am

“Solutions are needed at the state level.”

Good luck taxing suburban union leaders, like the 90% of CCNE leaders who live in the ‘burbs.  A hike in their taxes would mean they wouldn’t be able to afford their SUV and suburban McMansion in Westbrook.

A more realistic scenario is ever-rising taxes and rents on low income folks in New Haven, so that we can continue exporting all of our low-income families’ hard-earned dollars to support the consumption of our union leadership in the suburbs.

posted by: now what? on December 7, 2011  4:13pm

OK - with all the smart readers and posters on NHI, there must be someone who can provide a suggestion…..

I’m one of those evil ‘rich’ people who live in East Rock.  Our house is showing a 35% value increase vs 2006 which will mean an increase in assessed value of approximately 60% vs the partially phased in value. 

I have no problem paying my ‘fair share’ but the Obama economy also finds me out of work (I’m working odd side jobs to cover the bills). 

I’m struggling to find a solution other than getting out of the city.

posted by: cedarhillresident on December 7, 2011  4:32pm

@now what?

Every year NHCAN http://www.nhcan.org/ tried to say we can prevent this. But the same few people came out and tried to stop the maddness. Grant it we did get a few larger groups and that helped freeze it at least.

The ONLY way we can get this under control is to stop wasting the tax dollars. It is not free money it is our money. The city is not being managed right and cash flows to freely. get on the NHCAN email list and you will get emails on how to get involved in the budget in the up and come months.

posted by: robn on December 7, 2011  7:17pm


The solution is to cut spending dramatically enough to curb the shifted tax burden lest city hall kills the goose that laid the golden egg. All of a sudden Jeff Kerekes’ 10% budget reduction starts to make a lot of sense. Take note DeStefano voters.

posted by: Big Dave on December 7, 2011  10:20pm

Hey, Now What !!

The solution is to start hooking up with other fed-up folk who’ve been posing as Democrats all their fantasy lives.

As obvious as it is that the 2 party system ...ahem….sucks ( I was going to say blows, but didn’t), you, me, we need to get the MOST VOCAL and the ” Grand-standers” in the New Haven political scene out of the picture ASAP.

It is those snake-oil salesmen who keep people like YOU, “NOW”, as marginalized as possible. They couldn’t care less about you. Kerekes et al….they are"Independent Democrats”. That is scary right there. It cannot mean they are better than “regular democrats”. It means they are probably worse.

Fact is, you won’t get satisfaction here in New Haven for another 4 years, so do what you gotta do.

Just remember: Nobody in New Haven ever gave a rats bass about you. That, Now What, is obvious.

posted by: Morris Cove Mom on December 8, 2011  9:22am

Aside from the obvious problems with this tax increase/shuffle, I’m also concerned because I’m being evaluated on bedrooms I don’t have.  When I was sent my assessment paperwork a few months back, I was shocked by how inaccurate it was.  It probably still is.  Like when we bought the house, and found the assessment included a pool and shed and another outbuilding, none of which were there anymore.  Besides the tax increasing/shuffling, people should be concerned about the accuracy of all of it.

posted by: anon on December 8, 2011  11:48am

With all due respect, NHCAN won’t be able to do a thing about property tax, geographical equity, and ending racist policies that create barriers for low income people of color within our towns and cities. 

Only the labor unions can do this.  Unfortunately, their leadership have huge SUV and McMansion loans to pay off, and therefore, are firmly opposed.

The Independent should have an in depth convo with Malloy’s budget guru about this - clearly, he’s trying to protect Malloy’s base of unions and rich people in Fairfield County (who are smart enough to know that voting for a Republican would shake things up too much) and will shoot down any suggestions you might have about this.

posted by: cedarhillresident on December 8, 2011  3:37pm

I do agree with your comment to an extent. But New Haven also has a wasteful spending problem that needs to be addressed. We need to change how this city is ran (streamline) and we need to see and get rid of wasteful spending practices, we all know are happening. And moneys saved on waste can also help create programs that REALLY work (not the ones designed as payoff)ect.  Now!

But hey we can wait for hartford to change the game and sit on our hand and say poor me and blame them ...or WE CAN START AT home…while our reps are in hartford fighting for those changes. I for one am not going to sit and let the waste happen. Remember we will see more cuts from hartford…then what? more increases?

posted by: Sal A. DeCola on December 8, 2011  4:10pm

Justin this was a great video.  Keep up the good work.

posted by: robn on December 8, 2011  8:03pm

Yes good job Justin

Thank you for a very lucid description of whats going on. Readers should also be aware that if, in their calculations, their property value has risen above 9.2%, the tax increase may not be exactly the remaining percentage.

posted by: cedarhillresident on December 8, 2011  8:37pm



posted by: HhE on December 9, 2011  11:05am

Exactly how would labor unions end racism and reform property tax?  Would that be a state wide strike until the end of home rule?

Maybe the Independent could learn what cars the leaders of the various local unions actually drive, instead of letting anon and others continue to claim they are universally SUV drivers.  We might also learn which town they live in and the square footage of their homes (no need to give the actual addresses). 

I used to live in Fairfield County, but I have never belonged to a political party.  My mother and her partner continue to live there, and they are both Democrats.  Granted, most of my friends who continue to live there are right of center, but they hardly fear a labor or black uprising.

posted by: TC on December 12, 2011  6:18am

So some of you think it is fair to whack the taxpaying homeowners? And you figure the decent landlords like me will be forced to pass the rent increases on to my poor, downtrodden tenants?  So THEN- my taxes will go out to the poor to help them pay rent to me so I can turn it over to the City??
This is crazy thinking!  The spending MUST be cut in all areas. the State should take over NH so no more largess can be handed out to those who suck at the City’s teat.
Otherwise, when you finish crashing the NH real estate market, prices will topple, revenue will follow, and the cuts that should have been made before will have to be made. Unfortunately, the nice people who used to live here will have moved out. I’ve lived here all my life and I think this may be the straw that breaks this camel’s back. I will not become a sharecropper for New Haven.