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    Office Of The Mayor

    New Haven Addresses Concerns and Announces Changes in Assessor’s Office

    (7/26/2010) HAVEN- At a news conference today, Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. discussed six areas of concern recently expressed by members of the Board of Aldermen and changes being implemented to improve customer service and practices in the Assessor's office.

    Recently, Aldermen and residents have demonstrated concern about the following issues concerning the office of the assessor:

    1. Hostility toward tax payers in the Assessor’s Office

    2. Concerns about the setting of values on personal property of businesses

    3. Personal Property declarations

    4. Valuation of used cars

    5. Errors in Senior Tax freeze bills

    6. Conduct of Board of Assessment Appeals

    "We take all concerns seriously and in this case we heard the problems that some residents experienced, we took a thorough look at the matters in question and today we're pleased with the solutions that we will be implementing," said DeStefano.

    Cars

    State statute requires that all 169 municipalities use the reference book selected by OPM to set car values. A September 2, 2009 letter from OPM sets the NADA reference guide as the resource to be used in the valuation of vehicles for tax assessment purposes. Concerns about increases in motor vehicle tax bills were out of the hands of the assessor this year because the values were determined by NADA and not the city. Connecticut General Statutes 12-71d requires that the Office Policy and Management “recommend a schedule of motor vehicle values which shall be used by assessors in each municipality in determining the assessed value of motor vehicles for purposes of property taxation.”

    Senior tax freeze

    This year, 398 seniors who benefitted from the City's senior tax freeze received erroneous bills. The errors were discovered by the assessor but are the result of mistakes made by previous assessors and technological issues that have since been identified and will be repaired. Most of the individuals affected were underbilled and had been underbilled in previous years. The majority of these seniors were underbilled by more than $400.

    “This happened because of inconsistencies in the way the benefit was calculated from year to year. The staff was not properly prepared and we had IT systems that were not designed to handle the complexities of this program,” said DeStefano.

    Letters were sent to seniors in all four categories notifying them of the errors and explaining next steps. A hotline has been set up to handle concerns on this and any other tax or assessment matters. Seniors who have paid the higher bill may be entitled to a refund. Refund checks will be mailed within the next 30 days.

    A series of three community meetings will be held for seniors impacted by these miscalculations where city officials will be available to explain the errors, answer questions and provide an outlook on what correct bills will look like next year:

    ? August 10 at 2 p.m. at King/Robinson School

    ? August 11 at 2 p.m. at Edgewood School

    ? August 12 at 2 p.m. at Nathan Hale

    Personal Property Declarations

    Approximately 400 property accounts were assigned a value by the assessor, 365 of these had values set at $5,000 yielding a $211 tax bill. In at least half of these cases, the taxpaying business did not submit a personal property declaration form as required by law. The assessor, according to Connecticut General Statues 12-42, has the authority to apply a standard assessment “from the best information they can obtain and add twenty five percent of such assessment.” Businesses that received an assigned value on their assessment have been sent letters offering a field audit if they feel their assigned value is inaccurate.

    Tax-exempt to Taxable

    Sixty-five properties that were considered to be tax exempt in the previous grand list received a change in status this year whereby they are now taxable. Of these accounts, 13 appealed the change. The City is reviewing all of these accounts and has issued letters to the impacted organizations.

    “If an organization wants us to come out and complete a field audit, that’s what we’re going to provide to ensure everyone has a fair opportunity to make their case. If they feel the categorization of their property may be incorrect, we will work with them to ensure the assessment is accurate,” said DeStefano.

    Assessors Office

    Concerns were brought to the Mayor's attention about customer service inefficiencies in the assessor's office. To rectify this matter and implement thorough quality control, a series of changes will take place in both the assessor's office and the office of the tax collector:

    ? Installation of audio feature for cameras that will record in assessor’s and tax collector’s office

    ? Maintain logs of customer concerns/complaints

    ? Provide feedback cards to measure customer satisfaction in both offices – this will help to improve service and to recognize those employees in these offices who are providing exemplary service

    ? Hotline established for customer concerns- guaranteed timely human response

    ? All calls to these offices will be record for quality assurance

    ? Cross training between assessor’s and tax collector’s staff

    ? Customer service training of employees in both offices

    Board of Assessment Appeals

    Concerns were raised about inadequacies with the work of the board of assessment appeals. While the board is independent as established by the city charter, the controller's office will begin to provide administrative support for this board and ensure that members of the board receive the proper training and access to the resources necessary to better perform their duties.

    [END]



    Contact Name: Jessica Mayorga

    Contact Email: jmayorga@newhavenct.net

    Contact Phone: 203-946-7660


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