For information on the Property Revaluation Process, read below. Click here to see the Meeting Schedule for Public Informational Presentations on this process.
In accordance with Connecticut General Statutes, the Town of Fairfield is conducting a real property revaluation as required for the Grand List of October 1, 2015. This revaluation will correspond to the tax bills that will be due beginning in July 2016.
This process began in early 2014 when the Town of Fairfield undertook a Request for Proposal in order to solicit bids from state certified revaluation firms. The bidder selected in this process was Vision Government Solutions Inc. of Northboro, Massachusetts. Vision also performed Fairfield’s revaluations in 1993 and 2001, has been in business for over 30 years, and has performed over one hundred Connecticut revaluations. Some of the same staff that worked in Fairfield in 1993 and 2001 will be involved in Fairfield’s 2015 revaluation.
The Revaluation Process
There are five major phases to a municipal revaluation: Data Collection, Market Analysis, Valuation, Field Review, and Informal and Formal Appeal Hearings. During these phases many tasks will be implemented in order to successfully complete the revaluation.
Phase 1 - Data Collection
Fairfield’s 2015 revaluation will be a “full data verification” type revaluation. Fairfield’s last revaluation in 2010 was a “limited data verification” type revaluation in which historic data was updated using data verification questionnaires and digital photo imaging. The 2015 revaluation involves revaluation staff visiting properties within the Town to verify exterior structural data and conduct interior inspections.
Commencing July 14, 2014, Vision Government Solutions Inc. personnel will begin property inspections in the eastern and southern sections of town working between the hours of 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. This first phase of the Town’s “full data verification” revaluation will last for approximately a year. Data collectors will wear clothing and carry badges identifying them as Vision Government Solution employees and will carry written documentation from the Town stating their affiliation with the project. Vision Governmental Solution employees and their vehicles will also be registered with the Fairfield Police Department and the Assessors Office. Homeowners are encouraged to ask for this identification prior to admitting anyone into their homes. If a homeowner has a question as to the identity of a data collector, they may call the Fairfield Police Department non-emergency number (203-254-4800). They are also encouraged to contact the Vision Government Solutions Office in Town Hall (203-256-3189), Vision’s Fairfield Project Manager (1-800-628-1013, Ext. 3634) or the Town of Fairfield Assessor’s Office (203-256-3110) with any questions or concerns.
During this first phase of the revaluation, data collectors, also known as "Listers", will go to each property and physically inspect the interior and measure the exterior of each building. These "Listers" will note a building’s location, size, age, quality of construction, improvements, topography, utilities, zoning restrictions, if any, and numerous other characteristics both inside and out. To ensure that a home was inspected, the homeowner will be asked to sign the data collection form to verify that the inspection took place. The entire process will take approximately 15 minutes for most properties.
The Town of Fairfield and Vision Government Solutions fully understand the sensitivities of the interior inspection process. We realize that there will be many cases where a homeowner is not at home during the day due to their work schedule and other reasons. Thus, data collectors will make more than one attempt to visit each property, and will be available to set up appointments to visit each property if their first “cold call” attempts are unsuccessful. Vision Government Solutions will send a “call back letter” to property owners whose properties they were unable to inspect asking them to call and set up an appointment for inspection.
With an understanding of security and privacy matters in today’s world, both the Town of Fairfield and Vision Government Solutions wish to make the inspection process as unobtrusive as possible. The data collectors will visit properties for informational purposes only. It is to everyone’s advantage if the town’s real estate database is as accurate as possible and everyone benefits if the information regarding their property’s measurements, quality, condition, room counts, etc. is accurate.
Digital imaging will also be taking place as part of this project. This entails taking a digital image of every property in town. This picture will then be added to the assessment database and can be printed on the property record card. This will allow property owners and the Town to retrieve an image of any parcel in town.
Homeowners are reminded that specific questions regarding their current assessment and taxes due should be directed to the Town of Fairfield Assessor’s Office. Vision Government Solutions data collectors are not prepared to answer questions concerning current values or Town laws. The Vision data collector’s sole purpose at the initial property inspection visit is to gather information. Actual assessed values and taxes based on those assessed values from this revaluation will be determined later, during the market analysis and valuation phases of this project.
The project is starting in mid-2014 because, with about 21,600 properties in Fairfield, the data collection phase of this project is time consuming, and will take about a year to complete.
Phase 2 - Market Analysis
A variety of resources are used to analyze the real estate market. While the physical data is being collected by the Listers, Appraisal Personnel will be analyzing property sales taking place over a two and a half year period to determine which market factors influence property values. Once all the data is collected and reviewed for accuracy, appraisers will determine land values and set Neighborhoods, which rate the valuation levels of locations throughout the Town as determined by actual market activity.
Phase 3 - Valuation
Valuation is done using three recognized appraisal methods: the Cost Approach, the Income Approach and the Sales Comparison Approach. During this phase, individual characteristics of buildings are analyzed using information gathered in both phases 1 and 2. Each property is compared to other comparable properties with similar characteristics. Then the contributory market value of the improvements is added to the previously determined land values. This value is the final estimate for each parcel of property, building and land.
Phase 4 - Field Review
Field Review is the method of checking and re-checking both the values that have been determined and the data that has been collected. During this review, properties are viewed in the field by experienced appraisers who double-check uniformity and accuracy of information.
Phase 5- Informal and Formal Appeal Hearings
Once the data collection, market analysis, valuation, and field review phases of this revaluation are completed, at some point in mid to late November 2015, property owners will receive a notice of their new assessment. At this time, anyone with questions concerning the revaluation process or about the data collected on their property will have an opportunity to meet with a member of Vision’s staff to discuss their property value.
After the initial notice of their new assessment, taxpayers will be invited to participate in an informal hearing with Vision staff members if they wish to contest their new assessment. The informal hearing is the first step in the appeal process if the property owner feels their assessment is inaccurate. The informal hearings will take place in late November and during December 2015. A follow-up notice will be mailed to owners who participate in an informal hearing, showing any change to the assessment.
All owners will receive another assessment notice in early 2016 before the next round of appeals, the Board of Assessment Appeals, which is a formal appeals process undertaken annually by state statute. As with the informal hearings, owners who wish to formally appeal their assessment will have the opportunity to do so at Board of Assessment Appeals hearings.
After all five phases are completed, all data, files, records, etc. used in the revaluation are then turned over to the Assessors Office. This will allow the Town to maintain the data collected and values determined during the revaluation on a continual basis.
The Purpose of a Revaluation
The main purpose of a revaluation is to correct inequalities in the tax burden that have developed since the last revaluation in 2010. Revaluation is a revenue neutral process. This means that a municipality's tax levy is not changed by the revaluation, thus the total amount of taxes the Town will need to collect will be about the same, regardless of whether or not a revaluation takes place. What does change in a revaluation is the amount of taxes individual taxpayers pay. In July 2016, the first tax payments under this revaluation will be due.
Revaluation is a long process required by state law, one that will take almost two years to complete between the start of the process and the payment of the first tax bills after the revaluation. The Town of Fairfield asks for patience during this process.