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Sticker shock: 71% of Burlington homeowners see property tax increase

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 5:50 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Many Burlington property owners have sticker shock after opening their tax bills. Some 71% of them are seeing an increase because of the first citywide reassessment in 15 years.

Reassessment is required by state statute.

When the new values first went out in Burlington, 2,000 property owners filed an appeal with the city. Most of those were resolved but about 700 are still fighting it, saying the city is overvaluing their homes and in the process might put them in the poor house.

“This is just going to be something that’s going to keep us really poor for the next however long till we sell the house and we are not planning to sell,” said Susan Rivers, a Burlington homeowner. “I don’t know how we can afford it anymore.”

Rivers and her husband have lived in their Shelburne Road house for 43 years now. She says her new property tax bill shot up 39% after the city says the value of her home more than doubled.

“That’s just too big of a jump, and we are on our pensions and our Social Security. That’s it; there isn’t any more,” she said.

The Rivers family is not alone. According to city data, tax bills increased for 71% of properties, 25% got a tax cut and 4% saw no change in value.

The average increase on residential properties was $1,102 and on commercial properties was $2,483.

For those who lost value, the tax bill on the average home went down $149. For commercial properties, it was $3,932.

Burlington City Assessor John Vickery is now in the process, along with the Board of Tax Appeals, of beginning the second round of appeals on home appraisals.

In years without appraisals, they see about three or four appeals on the property value. This year, there are 690.

Vickery says it’s due to the fact that the housing market has risen over the past several years, while commercial properties have not gone up as much.

“For commercial property values, it has not been as strong. There has been some market appreciation but not over the course of 15 years and that is why we are seeing this shift of the tax burden moving onto single-family homes and it is a big impact,” Vickery said.

“If there’s a legitimate discrepancy with your property, you should be prepared to come and sit in front of the Board of Tax Appeals, which is a quasi-judicial board, and we make a decision by the evidence prepared, by the evidence presented both by the taxpayer and the city assessor,” said Alan Bjerke of the Burlington Board of Tax Appeals.

There are also three city councilors on the board who will help make a decision.

When property owners come for appeals, the price could go up, down or even stay the same.

However, a lot of this jump on residential homes is due to the fact it has been so long since the last citywide assessment 15 years ago.

“It’s been so long in many cases since a reassessment, for many homeowners, it’s been 15 years, those assessments have probably been way too low for way too long,” said Sarah Carpenter, D-Burlington City Council.

The Board of Tax Appeals hopes to wrap up the appeal process by Nov. 18.

If you haven’t started the process of appealing your home value and think that it’s not valued correctly, you can always file an appeal for next year.

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