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Mill Rate May Rise in Westport

Residential and commercial property values in Westport have declined since 2005. As a result, so has the 2010 Grand List — the sum of the assessed value of all taxable property in town. But Town Assessor Paul Friia said residents shouldn't expect the mill rate, or property tax, to go down.

"The mill rate and Grand List are the two components that generate taxes, so when you're trying to figure out the mill rate, you have to look at the Grand List and how much the town has to raise in taxes," Friia said. "The mill rate will probably go up because when the Grand List goes down, the mill rate has to make that up. If we were in a different economy and the Grand List went up significantly, we'd have reverse effect."

Friia said there was a 12.4 percent decrease in the Grand List. In 2009, the list totaled more than $10.9 billion. The 2010 list came in at about $9.5 billion — $1.4 billion less than the previous year.

Friia said the amount of the Grand List is likely to change, pending the outcome of Board of Assessment Appeals hearings this month. "Even if the Board of Assessment Appeals makes adjustments, I don't expect [the Grand List] to go down much, just by a very modest amount," he said.

Although the Grand List is the sum of the assessed value of real estate, personal property and motor vehicles, Friia said that 94 percent of the list is made up of real estate. This means shifts in assessed property values have a significant impact on the overall list.

Results from the October 2010 revaluation show the average reduction in value for residential properties was 13 percent. The average reduction in commercial property was 15 percent.

"All revaluation does is, it says every five years, you have to take a look at the market and re-adjust everyone's tax burden based on the market," Friia said. "I tell people it's just a re-adjustment of the slice of pie they have to pay every five years."

Are you worried about the mill rate and its effect on your property taxes? Leave a comment below.

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