Seen and Heard in Norwalk: Property values, tax burdens and renovations

A Harbor View home, one of many being elevated to conform to contemporary standards.

NORWALK, Conn. – Here are some items of interest that were seen or heard recently in Norwalk:

Hamilton: Oh no, we’re not

It isn’t just residents of Rowayton who are crying foul over the preliminary results of the latest round of assessments; residents of Harbor View are feeling the pain as well, as evidenced by this exchange between a Harbor View woman and city officials at a recent meeting:

“I’m feeling that all of the properties in my neighborhood went up,” she said. “I feel like my neighborhood has been unfairly targeted, where at the same time, we are still trying to recover from damage from the hurricane.”

Her “tiny bungalow, built in 1945 with no improvements” had been assessed at a higher value than in the 2008 revaluation, she said.

“Properties of all types may go up,” Tax Assessor Michael Stewart said. “It doesn’t matter how old the property is. A function of the property could strictly be the location that the property finds itself in. While your building may be old and small, it may be sitting on a prime piece of real estate that causes the value of the entire property, not just the building, to appreciate.”

She replied: “It’s a fine piece of property that’s been under the salt water. I know what this is like; I know what salt damage is from salt water,” she said.

Finance Director Thomas Hamilton stepped in.

“The purpose of revaluation is not to target neighborhoods, or to hurt people. The purpose of revaluation is all about trying to ensure that there is equity across all property owners in Norwalk so that everyone is paying their fair share of taxes but not more than their share of taxes,” he said.

Rowayton dynamo fueling Norwalk?

Property taxes were also the mind of a man who yelled at city officials recently at the first Mayor’s Night Out.

“Do you think the taxes are fair here? Have you gone in Darien and seen what taxes are there? How is it half?” said Port Draper, who said he was representing both Wilson Point and Rowayton at the meeting.

His 10 minute rant also included this comment: “Rowayton is like a dynamo, if we didn’t have Rowayton we’d be bankrupt.”

NancyOnNorwalk has since looked into some of the things that were said.

The 2012 grand list year mill rate in Norwalk’s Sixth Taxing District was 20.157, according to the Connecticut Secretary of State’s website. The 2012 grand list year mill rate for Darien was 13.17. Darien taxpayers pay 65.34 percent the rate of Rowayton taxpayers, by that reckoning.

That 20.157 figure includes money collected for the Sixth Taxing District. Hamilton said that if you take that out, the mill rate is 19.131. The district pays 9.5 percent of the city’s taxes, he said.

“For the current fiscal year (FY 2013-14), the net taxable grand list for the 6th District is $1,400,942,637,” he said in an email. “The city mill rate which is charged to all districts for base services (we refer to this as the 5th District mill rate) is 19.131.  So, the total city tax levy that is charged to the 6th District is $26,801,434.  The entire citywide tax levy is $281,188,439.  Therefore, the 6th District pays 9.5 percent of the city’s taxes.  This excludes the levy that the 6th District levies upon itself for district services.”

Then there are these minutes from the March 6, 2013, Sixth Taxing District meeting, quoting Commissioner Mike Barbis:

“Mr. Barbis explained that our part of the property tax from the city of Norwalk is 5 percent,” the minutes say. “We have about 1,500 households. That works out to about $950 per household in revenue from property taxes. The average tax bill in the district is $16,000.”


Winning the competition for the most expensive real estate transaction in the last two weeks of 2013 in Norwalk is the home at 17 Sammis St., conveyed on Dec. 20 from Christian and Amanda Biggs to Elke Higgins for $1.875 million, according to records in the town clerk’s office.

Most expensive building permit listed in the Code Enforcement office is a tenant fit-up in iPark, a valuation of $1.142 million with $17,436 in fees to Norwalk. That’s for the southeast corner and includes an elevator.


13 responses to “Seen and Heard in Norwalk: Property values, tax burdens and renovations”

  1. anonymous

    If 6th District Rowayton pays 9.5% of city taxes, what percent does E Norwalk pay, S Norwalk, etc.? How does it break down by average taxes paid by household in each district?

  2. EDR

    They are called ad valorum real estate taxes for a reason. What do you expect when you live in the nicest part of town and property values actually increase? Contest the valuation if you think it is wrong. That is your right as a homeowner.

  3. Piberman

    With median taxes about $7,000 on properties valued between $350 to 400k Norwalk is near the 2% “tipping point” from which properties stagnate or decline in value. Well known examples of this phenomenoa are Bridgeport and Nassau County, Long Island. As long as City politicans remain indifferent to tipping point implications Norwalk property owners will continue to pay ever higher taxes against stagnant to declining property values. In the end City property owners get the government they deserve. The contrast with our neighboring towns makes the point clearly.

  4. You may want to check your facts

    Piberman, my taxes are around $5,600 on a house valued at just under $400,000, where are you getting those numbers from????

  5. Casey Smith

    “Have you gone in Darien and seen what taxes are there?”- Port Draper.
    Just a few thoughts on Darien and Norwalk:
    1 – Darien is a town with a population of 21,114 while Norwalk is a city of 87,190 as of 2012 according to the State of Connecticut Department of Health. http://www.ct.gov/dph/lib/dph/hisr/hcqsar/population/pdf/FINAL_pop_towns2012.pdf
    2 – Darien has five elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. (http://www.darienps.org/current/) Norwalk has three high schools,four middle schools and thirteen elementary schools. http://portal.norwalkps.org/default.aspx
    3 – Darien has a Volunteer Fire Department. Norwalk has a paid department with at least five stations.
    4 – Darien does not have a hospital, Norwalk does.
    5 – Darien does not have a community college, Norwalk does.
    6 – Darien’s sewage is handled by Stamford. Norwalk has its own plant.
    I could go on and compare the size of the police departments, and do some research on how many miles of road Darien has compared to Norwalk, but it’s late and I’m getting tired. With a population four times that of the Town of Darien, it shouldn’t be a surprise that City of Norwalk’s taxes are higher. And the reasons why should be self evident.

  6. dawn

    that math doesn’t work for my house either. and

  7. Casey Smith,
    Don’t forget we have South Norwalk and higher criminal activity that increases our taxes even higher in order to “control” the criminal elements. Then we have to support all the agencies for South Norwalk kids because their parents fail to do so (where in Darien this doesn’t happen).

  8. Piberman

    Gentle people

    If population size determined taxes then consider both Danburry and Stamford, one smaller, one larger, but both with lower taxes than our fair City. Understanding Norwalk’s high taxes begins with the Arbitration Report noting our school teachers salaries 5th highest in the state despite our modest 19th income ranking. Our local politicians work for City employees, not for taxpayers. As long as City politicians keep City employee salary/benefits above every other CT city we all pay the piper. Mayor Rilling said we need give City employees “more respect”. Maybe some day a city politician will suggest giving taxpayers “more respect”. Until that day arrives pay higher taxes on stagnant to declining property values. It’s what makes Norwalk the “first in first out” community in Fairfield County. Norwalkers are admired everywhere for their high City employee salaries and commensurate property salaries. Especially by residents of our surrounding government who wonder why Norwalk residents do not stand up and demand much more responsible government.
    Its a great mystery.

  9. Casey Smith

    Piberman – I was actually aware of those facts, but Mr. Draper was comparing Darien to Norwalk, not Norwalk to Stamford or Danbury.
    Also I seem to remember finding out that when First Selectman Evonne Klein was in office in Darien, her salary was not all that much different from Mayor Moccia’s at the time — and both of them were in the five figure range, not the six figure range like the Norwalk Superintendent of Schools. Obviously, things change so those figures are no longer accurate and I’m positive I tossed the hard copies of the budgets some time ago.
    Regarding the population’s affect on the taxes, it’s nice that Danbury has a lower population by about 5,000 some odd and Stamford is up over 125,000. I don’t believe the issue is how much our city administration’s employees are paid simply because over 50% of the budget goes to the Board of Education.
    The trick here, I believe, is determining what the commercial tax base is versus the residential tax base. Stamford has numerous corporations within its borders, as does Danbury. Norwalk has not been as fortunate (?) in developing the commercial aspect of the revenue stream. I believe Mr. Hamilton stated (and if he’s reading this and I’m incorrect, please say so)that only about 10% of the overall taxes in Norwalk come from commercial properties. Last I heard, the largest employer in Norwalk is the Board of Education. Danbury and Stamford have much more favorable commercial/residential ratios than we do. And both Stamford and Danbury have large shopping malls. We do not. That may change in the future, but until it does, the property owners will be bearing most of the tax burden.

  10. anonymous

    However you want to present it, bottom line, the high taxes Norwalk taxpayers pay does not jive with the value Norwalk taxpayers receive.

    Norwalk taxpayers are not getting what they are paying for, simple as that.

  11. Al Bore

    There are ways to appeal so if you do not agree speak up

  12. Piberman

    Casey Smith

    The Arbitration Panel Report identifies the source of Norwalk’s high taxes – 5th highest teacher salaries in the state. Despite income ranking only 19th. Correcting that imbalance requires electing politicians better at basic arithmetic. Not hopeful here.

    Everyone knows that more business development would ease residential tax burdens. Except our politicians who put City employees first, taxpayers and business owners last. See how the New Norwalk will give employees more respect and residential and business taxpayers much higher taxes.

    Norwalk has much to learn from Danbury and Stamford on attracting new business. But our politicians aren’t listening. They’re out to lunch.

  13. Casey Smith

    Unfortunately,Piberman, the City has no control over how the BOE negotiates their contracts or even what they chose to pay their administrators. All I can say is that more than 50% of the budget goes to the BOE. However, I do find it interesting that two of the three former City employees that were shown the door were BOE employees. I’d also like to remind everyone that the BOE may still be carrying financial obligations towards Dr. Corda, Dr. Marks and another administrator whose first name was Stuart and whose last name escapes me.

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