Rehoboth to delay tax bills

Commissioners hear appeals June 19-20
June 20, 2014

The Rehoboth Beach commissioners will delay setting the new property tax rate until Friday, July 18, pushing back the due date for city property tax bills until the end of September.

The commissioners will make the delay official with a vote at their Friday, June 20 regular meeting.

The city commissioners decided to delay setting the tax rate after 61 property owners filed appeals of their recent property reassessment. The city commissioners, sitting as the appeals board, will hold a marathon two days of hearings on Thursday, June 19 and Friday, June 20. Mayor Sam Cooper said it was only fair to hear the appeals and finalize the reassessment before officially setting the tax rate.

City charter states that the property tax rate must be set by June 20, however, the charter also says the tax rate must be based on a complete property assessment. Cooper and the commissioners agreed that since the reassessment is not complete without the results of appeals hearings, they could legally push back the tax vote.

Each appeal hearing will have the same structure: appellants will have a maximum of 15 minutes to plead their case. The commissioners will then hear an explanation from assessor PTA/DelVAL and a formal recommendation will be made for the commissioners to rule on.

The commissioners held a special meeting June 9 to specifically discuss the reassessment, which wrapped up in mid-April. On hand were Dave Hickey and Jonathan Larsen from assessor PTA/DelVal, who discussed the methodology and results of the reassessment.

Hickey said the starting point for the reassessment, which had not been done in Rehoboth since 1968, was looking at recent home sales data. He said the sales figures were used to get an idea of the value of land, the condition of structures and the value of improvements on a given property.

Larsen was one of two assessors PTA/DelVal sent out to go door-to-door examining each property, to see how the land and building information on file with the city matched up with what is actually there.  Age of houses were also factored in; Larsen said much of the data in the city listed the building date to 1968, even when houses were clearly older.

He said depreciation of houses was also looked at in determining value; Cooper said there had been no depreciation factored into property values since the city's last reassessment.

The biggest change from the reassessment was land values far surpassing building values, a reversal of the 1968 assessment. Commissioner Patrick Gossett said the city’s total property value is $3 billion; in 1968 the city was worth $74 million.

Board to approve petitions

Besides deferring on the tax rate, at the commissioners regular meeting, 7:30 p.m., Friday, June 20, in the city commissioners’ room, they will also approve nominating petitions for the Saturday, Aug. 9 municipal election.

Approving the petitions is typically a formality mandated by city charter; candidates must have at least 10 signatures on their nominating petitions to be approved. Up for grabs this year are the mayor’s seat and two commissioners’ seats.

Running for mayor are incumbent Sam Cooper and Tom McGlone, in a rematch of the 2011 race. The five candidates running for the two commissioner seats are incumbent Lorraine Zellers, planning commissioner Frances “Bunky” Markert, former commissioner Kathy McGuiness, business owner John Meng and resident Larry Myslewski.