Revaluation has taken its toll on Southington, leading to drastic real estate declines in some areas and leaving the community with a 8.57 percent decline in the 2011 grand list.
If not for the drastic value changes caused by the soft economy and recent revaluation process, however, Brian Lastra said increases in personal property and motor vehicles property would likely have given Southington another year of growth on the grand list.
“It’s difficult to say where exactly the grand list would be without the new 2011 values, but if we were still using the values the town had in 2005 then we would be looking at an increase of around 1 percent, maybe more,” Lastra said.
The released on Wednesday afternoon showed a $348,350,103 decrease, or an 8.57 percent drop, over the same period in 2010. Real estate values saw a dramatic decline of 10.6 percent, of $380,262,895, while both personal property and motor vehicle assessments saw significant increases.
In 2010, the town's grand list .
The struggling economy — particularly the real estate market both state- and nation-wide — had a significant impact on the dramatic change in real estate, Lastra said, and was responsible for two office buildings being left vacant.
These vacancies had an extremely negative effect on commercial values in particular and brought down the real estate values of even the most successful local businesses.
“What was a surprise was the amount of building permits the town has had,” Lastra said. “Our revaluation vendor (Vision Government Services) expressed some surprise in exactly how many building permits we had and how much residential growth there still was. This is a positive sign for the future as it means that we are in a good position when the real estate market steadies.”
The decline in the grand list will leave officials with tough decisions this year as it relates to the budget, several council members and Board of Finance members said this week. Both parties said they would be looking for possible savings in the budget and are looking to maintain services and meet new needs with the lowest cost increases possible.
Councilman John Barry said the numbers reflect the need to look for areas where the budgets, currently presented with requests for a 2 percent increase in general government and 3.82 percent for the Board of Education, could be reduced to help prevent large increases to the taxpayer.
“In terms of what this means for the average taxpayer; to just maintain level services then the mill rate has to go up,” Barry said.
The town will continue to be frugal and look for savings, even after the budget process is complete, said Garry Brumback. However, he also noted that to be prepared for the future and remain proactive in working to grow revenues without raising taxes significantly, it cannot “operate in a Draconian way either.”
“We are certainly going to be mindful of the economy here,” Brumback said. “It’s a tough year. Some properties have not gone down as much and those residents are facing the potential to see significant tax increases. We are going to keep those individuals in mind as we go through this (budget) process.”
Although the overall decline is a tough pill for residents and officials to swallow, there was also several positive signs to come out of the 2011 grand list, both Lastra and Brumback said.
Personal property values saw a $9,845,738 increase in 2011, 6.08 percent, and motor vehicle assets increased by $22,067,054, or an even 7 percent.
Brumback said that the increase in motor vehicle values was “a pleasant surprise” and provides some encouraging signs for the town when it comes to future grand lists, but the town must continue to work on bringing in businesses in order to strengthen the economy for the future.
“This is a team effort between elected officials, the Economic Development Office, members of the Planning and Zoning Commission, our folks in the school system – all these groups are essential in helping continue to make Southington the place to be and continue economic growth,” Brumback said.