In this difficult economy, the message that West Hartford's Grand List has increased by $845,639,376 (16.8 percent) above last year's list might be viewed as very good news.
However, exactly what this increase means to residents hoping to be able to calculate their future tax burden still remains to be determined.
Led by Blue Back Square LLC's real property assessed value of $84,742,420, which is $22,093,420 more than the 2010 value, commercial properties in town as a whole showed a 5.9 percent increase.
Other top 10 commercial taxpayers include West Farms Mall, Corbins Corner Shopping Center, Town Center West Associates, Sister of Mercy of Connecticut, Prospect Plaza Improvement, Westgate Apartments, Corporate Center West Associates, OLP West Hartford LLC, and Lexharn West Hartford LLC.
The value of the Motor Vehicle list increased by 6.7 percent ($26,641,063) over to 2010, which Director of Assessment Joseph Dakers said, "continues to indicate a high demand for used automobiles. This has resulted in increased retail values for many used vehicles and, a decline in the level of depreciation," according to Dakers.
Residential Property, which comprises a major share of the total Grand List, actually decreased this year, compared to 2010, by 7.5 percent ($352,586,539). Apartments also saw a decrease in their assessment, with values falling by 32.4 percent ($40,176,010).
So what do all of these numbers mean?
"The Grand List really just puts a value on property," Town Manager Ron Van Winkle said. He cautioned residents not to make assumptions yet about their tax burden, because this is just one part of the formula which ultimately affects residents' tax bills.
Calculation of the Grand List is the first step, a summation of the reassessed values for all property in town. The next step will be an analysis of how the change in assessed value – this year impacted by revaluation – has impacted the distribution of those values.
"Assessments in some neighborhoods went up, some by a lot, some just a little," Van Winkle said. The Town will have information available by the second week of February, including breakdowns mapped out by neighborhood, indicating how values of property have changed across town. That will provide "better insight into the impact of revaluation on taxes across town, individually," Van Winkle said.
The analysis this year is even more complicated than ever, because of what occurred in 2006, the last time West Hartford went through the revaluation process. That year legislation was passed permitting towns to phase in the revaluation rather than applying it all at once.
West Hartford began the phase-in process, but suspended it after two years. Once the values were frozen, the total assessed value of real property changed only through the impact of new construction or remodeling.
Although it will be the subject of ongoing discussion and debate, the final determination of an individual's tax burden can't be determined until the Town Council adopts the budget in April, and calculates a mill rate which is then applied to the assessed value of a property.
The mill rate is currently 39.44, or $39.44 for each $1,000 of assessed property value. If the budget were to remain the same as it is for this fiscal year, the mill rate would decrease as a result of the increase in the Grand List.
The Council has the ability to implement the 2011 assessment on a phase-in basis. These figures do not take into account revisions resulting from Board of Assessment Appeals.