Soon, they'll come knocking at your door.
Part of the Sussex County reassessment process will include door-to-door visits by data collectors to more than 182,000 properties. Not only will they be collecting information on your property, but they will also measure the exterior and take street-level photographs.
Sussex County Council learned more about the complexity of conducting a countywide tax reassessment at its June 15 meeting.
Paul Miller, Tyler Technologies eastern regional sales leader, explained the process but told council that some details have yet to be worked out with county staff. The $9 million base-bid contract was awarded to the company last week.
He said the bottom line of reassessment is to predict what every single residential and commercial property in Sussex County would sell for. “This has be accurate and equitable. It's a monumental task,” he said.
Miller said a plethora of data will be collected on all of the county's more than 182,000 properties including street-level and aerial photographs – taken from airplanes in spring and fall– of each parcel. In the first step of the process, he said, data collectors will go door to door to garner data from as many residences as possible.
Exterior measurements will be taken of all structures on a property when possible.
Data collected will include a property's location, age, condition, improvements, and information on the surrounding neighborhood. Five comparable properties will be used to determine a new market value for a property.
Miller said using comparables allows for a more precise property valuation.
He said one in-person visit will be made and if a homeowner is away, an informational door hanger will be left behind for property owners to fill out with property data and mail to the county within 30 days, or they can request an appointment for an on-site visit by a data collector.
District 5 Councilman John Rieley asked if data collectors would go inside homes and businesses. Miller said they only go inside a structure if a request is made by a property owner.
Rieley also asked about accessibility to some properties if data collectors come across locked gates or no-trespassing signs.
“We have to make it safe for data collectors. We will follow county policies,” Miller said, adding guidelines will be established during meetings with county staff.
The collected data will be compiled on tablets and downloaded into the county's computer-assisted mass appraisal software.
Commercial properties will be valued using either a cost or income approach, Miller said. The cost approach uses the cost of a commercial building minus depreciation. The income approach uses more details including income and expenses.
Assessments date back to 1974
Currently, Sussex County property owners pay taxes based on 50 percent of a property's 1974 appraised value. A reassessment has never taken place in the county.
County property tax is 10 percent of the annual bill; 90 percent is school taxes. On average, single-family home owners pay $118 a year in county property taxes; manufactured home owners pay an average of $46 a year.
Mailings to property owners
Property owners will receive at least two mailings from the company. The first, to be mailed summer 2021 through spring 2023, will contain known data on properties, similar to a realtor's information sheet. Property owners will have an opportunity to review the data and make changes.
Commercial property owners will receive a voluntary income and expense survey form.
A notice of value will be mailed out once all data has been collected. It's at that stage that property owners can schedule an informal meeting with staff if they have questions about their reassessment.
“Could you sell your house for this? Did we get the value right? If not, we want people to come see us,” Miller said, adding homeowners should provide supporting information to plead their case.
Unresolved cases will be heard by the county's Board of Assessment Review. Miller said his staff will provide up to 50 days of assistance to the board.
The company will create a website with photos of data collectors, videos on the process, key dates and frequently asked questions.
Miller said community outreach is critical to the process. He and his staff will meet with groups requesting meetings set up by county staff.
Key dates in the process
Door-to-door data collection: Late 2021 to early 2023
Data analysis: Early to mid-2023
Valuation reviews: Mid-2023 to early 2024
Informal meetings: Late 2023 to early 2024
Process completed in time for 2024 tax bills