Shelly Waterman expected her home value would go up as a result of Burlington’s recent citywide reappraisal. But she was still surprised to see the final number on paper.
Her three-bedroom, one-bathroom ranch in the New North End was previously valued at $209,100. Its new value: $269,500, a $60,400 increase.
“To see your appraisal go up thousands — [for] many, $50,000 or more — really is shocking,” Waterman said.
The reappraisal was the city’s first since 2005 and is meant to ensure that all properties are assessed at fair market value. Property values have increased over time in Burlington’s high-demand housing market, but the tax burden isn’t equally distributed, according to City Assessor John Vickery.
While some residents saw a modest bump, others are learning that their home value increased by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Seven Days reviewed letters sent to two people whose home values had increased by about 50 percent and about 85 percent, respectively.
“On the one hand, it’s like, ‘Wow, I’ve got a great piece of property,’” Waterman reflected. “On the other hand: ‘Oh, I’ve got a piece of property that’s going to make it more difficult for me to afford to live here.”
City officials, however, are cautioning people not to panic. Just because a home’s appraised value doubled does not mean its taxes will increase twofold, Vickery said.
That’s because the city charter mandates that reappraisals are revenue neutral, meaning the city can’t significantly increase taxes based on higher property valuations.To compensate, both the municipal and education tax rates will be lowered, Vickery wrote in an email to Seven Days.
The city is expected to set its tax rate in June, after the city council approves its fiscal year 2021-22 budget. Voters approved the school budget in March, but it’s up to the legislature to set the education rate, also likely in June, Vickery said.
Some homeowners will pay more taxes post-appraisal, but others will pay less or approximately the same, according to Vickery.
“Over time, equity is lost as properties appreciate at different rates,” he wrote. “This resetting [of] values means that some properties have had a tax advantage because the valuation was low compared to the market relative to others.”
Waterman understands the process, but said she and her neighbors are still anxiously awaiting their tax bills to see the true impact.
Burlington resident Kyla Boyce feels similarly. Her home was previously appraised at $192,400 and is now valued at $281,800, almost a $90,000 jump. That number is low compared to Boyce’s friends, whose home values have “gone up a couple hundred thousand dollars, which is absolutely atrocious,” she said.
Boyce said the coronavirus pandemic has likely worsened the problem as out-of-state buyers have bought up Burlington homes for far more than their true value. She and her husband have considered moving out of state to escape Vermont’s high taxes, Boyce added.
In the meantime, Boyce is considering an appeal of the new valuation. Homeowners initially had until April 23 to request an appeal hearing, but the city on Tuesday extended the deadline to April 30.
At their meeting Monday night, city councilors said they’d heard from a number of constituents concerned about the new valuations and quick turnaround time to appeal them.
Councilor Brian Pine (P-Ward 3) urged residents to file for an appeal if their new value “is inconsistent with properties around you, or you had an appraisal done to refinance or a home equity loan or something that tells you … there’s a problem.”
“The value is really the thing to be concerned about right now,” he said.
Homeowners can request a hearing by submitting a form on the city assessor’s webpage, by mailing a letter to City Hall or by calling the city’s contractor, Tyler Technologies, at 1-877-895-9675.