CT Watchdog: After 20 years, state demands cars assessed as classics

On a good day, George Volkov of Griswold could sell his 1992 Jeep Cherokee Laredo for a couple of hundred dollars.

Imagine his reaction when the assessment on his rust-bucket - with more than 280,000 miles - jumped from $1,590 to $5,200 this year.

The assessment at 70 percent fair retail value of $1,590 was pretty bad, but at $5,200 it is ludicrous, says Volkov, a retired engineer who teaches computer science at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich.

At the tax rate of 26 mills,Volkov said, the difference between what he has to pay in taxes on the car this year compared to last year is only about $200.

"It's not a major financial issue," said Volkov. "It's a matter of principle."

Volkov contacted town assessor Leslie Kornosewicz who explained to him that by state law, she has to set the assessment at 70 percent of fair retail value as stated in the National Automobile Dealers Association guide.

The problem is that the NADA guide for regular vehicles only goes back 20 years. After that vehicles, 21 years or older are placed in the classic category, and are considered to have higher value.

That is fine for a car in great condition, Volkov argued with the assessor, but his vehicle has dents, large rusted areas and the paint is peeling.

"There is nothing classic about this car," Volkov insists. "I'm just trying to get the last few miles out of it before heading to the junkyard."

The assessor told him that he would have to appeal the assessment in September.

Volkov contacted assessors in three neighboring towns and he said they told him they would be more reasonable in their assessment if the vehicle were in their towns.

He asked CTWatchdog to check whether his assessor was being reasonable.

I contacted Stuart Topliff, Rocky Hill's assessor who also is president of the Connecticut Association of Assessing Officers. Topliff agreed with the Griswold assessor.

"We are bound by state law," Topliff said.

And state law says all assessors are required to use the same guide to set the assessment - the NADA.

If the owner of the vehicle believes it is not worth the assessed amount, they may file an appeal. Each September, every town in the state conducts appeals hearings on car assessments, he said. And if the vehicle is not in good shape, the appeals board can take that into consideration, Topliff said.

Volkov says he was hoping to resolve the issue prior to Aug. 1 when his tax payment was due. But now, he says, he will appeal in September, and if he is not satisfied he will file a legal challenge in court.

"This is idiotic," he said.

george@ctwatchdog.com; www.ctwatchdog.com


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