Revaluation means big drop in Norwich grand list

Norwich — The revaluation of city property conducted last year has resulted in a dramatic drop in the city's grand list of taxable properties, according to figures released Friday by the city assessor's office.

The overall grand list, including real estate, personal property and motor vehicles, dropped 25.8 percent. Real estate values dropped by 29.6 percent and personal property by 6.19 percent, while motor vehicle values rose by nearly 4 percent, Assessor Donna Ralston reported. The overall grand list totals $1.8 billion, a decrease in value of $625,361,340.

"Everything goes down when the economy goes down," Ralston said.

The revaluation was expected to cause sharp drops in real estate values especially, because the city last calculated property values during the height of the last real estate boom in 2008. Those values continued to be used to determine taxes through the recession until now.

Real estate values, by far the largest portion of the city's tax base, dropped from $2.1 billion to $1.48 billion, a drop of nearly $625 million. All categories of real estate values dropped — residential, commercial, industrial and even vacant land. But residential values dropped the most, 33.4 percent and commercial and industrial properties by 24 percent, signifying a slight shift in the property burden toward commercial and industrial properties, Ralston said.

She said many of the industrial properties in the city are the old 19th century mills — "they're liabilities now."

Personal property values dropped in part because of depreciation after major increases in that category in recent years, Ralston said. But the $7.9 million drop in personal property values nearly was canceled out by the $7.4 million increase in motor vehicle values.

"I attribute that to residents' trading up to newer, more valuable vehicle(s)," Ralston wrote in her report to City Manager Alan Bergren.

City Comptroller Joshua Pothier said taxpayers should realize that while a dramatic drop in the grand list likely will mean a higher tax rate citywide, it doesn't mean a large tax increase. When he property value is lower, the tax rate has to be higher to collect the same amount of taxes.

Calculated on this year's city budget and tax rate, the new grand list would have raised about $16.3 million less in tax revenue.

The list of the city's top 10 taxpayers also shifted slightly with the revaluation, as U.S. Foodservice dropped off the list unexpectedly. The giant food distribution center on Otrobando Avenue has a value of over $5 million, but had been the fifth-highest taxpayer last year. Ralston said she would investigate that big drop.

c.bessette@theday.com">c.bessette@theday.com

Norwich Top 10 taxpayers and gross property values

1. Computer Sciences Corp., $25 million
2. Norwichtown Commons (shopping plaza), $15.6 million
3. Bob's (CT) QRS (Bob's Discount Furniture distribution center), $14.7 million
4. EMC Corp. (affiliated with Computer Sciences), $11.5 million
5. Freeport-McMoran Copper Products, $13.4 million
6. Norwich Realty Associates LLC (Marcus Plaza shopping center), $9.6 million
7. Plaza Enterprises (shopping and health care center), $9.2 million
8. Algonquin Gas Transmission LLC, $8.7 million
9. Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust (Wal-Mart/Big Y plaza), $8.6 million
10. Norwich Community Development Corp. (Mercantile Exchange office building and business park land), $7.9 million

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