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Property tax appeals wrapping up after recent Burlington reappraisals

Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 5:08 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 8, 2021 at 5:40 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Tax appeals are wrapping up in Burlington after a reappraisal process which left 71% of homeowners seeing a jump in their values.

After some property owners got sticker shock from the first reappraisal since 2005, 700 appeals were filed. Last year, there were only five. So, the Board of Tax Appeals had their work cut out for them.

“I just wonder about doing this whole process during a pandemic to begin with and I wonder about all the mechanisms about how this is done. I think there could be a lot of improvement to it,” said Bob Hill, who is appealing his rental property value before the board after he says it went up 95%.

“If I am stuck with the assessment they have given me currently, the property taxes on that building will go up $3,000 for me. To break even, I will have to raise the rents on the five individuals living there by $600 on an annual basis.”

Hill is one of the hundreds of other property owners going through this process. The appeals period ends Thursday.

Preliminary statistics show:

  • 393 settled/withdrawn before hearing
  • 276 board issued decisions
  • 28 appeals to be heard this week
  • 3 other

“Well, that’s our job is we look at it with fresh eyes. And some values went up and some values went down. The most likely scenario is that they came out about the same,” said Alan Bjerke, the chair of the Burlington Board of Tax Appeals.

The city assessor will provide more data in a couple of weeks.

Tyler Technologies completed a citywide appraisal remotely this year. Since the firm wasn’t on the ground in Burlington, many have questions about the process and the company’s conclusions, resulting in a record number of hearings.

“We listened to people make their case made decisions and I think people enjoyed having the opportunity to have their actual neighbors do the reevaluation instead of people in another state doing it remotely,” Bjerke said.

The seismic shifts in some home prices are the result of many factors. It has been 16 years since the last appraisal. Commercial properties declined in value due to the pandemic. At the same time, single-family home values soared.

The city asked to postpone the state-mandated appraisal and was denied.

Burlington city councilors created an ad hoc committee to look into the problems and complaints stemming from this reappraisal.

“It certainly had to happen. Like I said, I think it was a confluence of certain circumstances that made it happen the way it did and we’re going to work hard to make sure we don’t go through another appraisal like the one we just went through,” said Mark Barlow, a city councilor and member of the Board of Tax Appeals.

We will be following what this new committee does. Barlow says one of its main missions is to educate property owners about reappraisal and what they can expect if they go through the appeals process.

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