Sussex reassessment data collection continues

A team of Tyler Technologies employees will make visits to more than 182,000 properties
May 13, 2022

Tyler Technologies, the consultant hired by Sussex County officials to perform property tax reassessments, has completed just over 10 percent of its property data collections.

As of May 4, 19,680 properties have been visited by a team of 21 collectors in neon-yellow vests making door-to-door, on-site visits. There are more than 182,000 properties in the county to be processed. Tyler Technologies was awarded a $9 million base bid last year.

Mary Noldy, Tyler Technologies senior project supervisor, presented an update of the reassessment process to Sussex County Council at its May 10 meeting.

She said collectors have taken 19,000 photographs of properties and will start uploading the data to the county assessment database this summer.

Collectors visit and take a street-view photograph of every improved property. They also take measurements of every building on a property, and if the property owner is home, they conduct a short interview about the layout of the interior, including number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

Noldy said the biggest challenge the collectors face is lack of awareness of the reassessment process. “We get some mixed reactions from people,” she said. “The data collectors' knock on the door is the first time many residents are hearing about reassessment.”

She said many residents choose to call the office to verify the collector is a representative of the county. “They think we are salespersons or scammers. But once they verify who the collector is, they are well received. They are usually willing to provide answers during the interview phase,” she said.

She said collectors do not enter residences and do not enter properties that are gated or have no-trespassing signs posted without permission.

“It’s to a resident’s benefit to get the data correct. We do everything possible to get good data,” she said.

When access is not available, collectors make estimates. Noldy said every property owner will eventually receive a copy of their reassessment with the photograph and all collected data.

Data collected includes 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.

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.

Data collection is expected to be complete in May 2023, and the process is scheduled to be completed in time for 2024 tax bills

Access to aerial photos

At its May 10 meeting, council approved an expenditure of $59,400 to Eagleview Technologies to allow Tyler Technologies and county staff access to current and historical aerial photographs of every property during the revaluation process.

Noldy said the data will enhance the data collection process and also provide accurate data to county assessment staff during the appeal process. It’s estimated as many as 10 percent of property owners will appeal their initial reassessment. She said it will also show if any improvements have been made to a property.

Values date back to 1974

Officials in all three Delaware counties are under a court order to conduct a reassessment, which is the first ever in the county.

Currently, Sussex County property owners pay taxes based on 50 percent of a property's 1974 appraised value. County property tax is 10 percent of the annual bill, while 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.

Market values of properties

Delaware law requires that appraisals reflect the market value of the property at the time of an appraisal. The date of value for Sussex will be July 1, 2023. Values must reflect current market value supported by data and analysis conducted during a prescribed time leading up to that date.

For commercial properties, appraisers will reach a valuation by considering a host of factors – not just income, County Administrator Todd Lawson said in a recent meeting.

Some of the factors that will be studied are local construction cost, land values, sales data, income and expense data and other elements that could affect values. He said Tyler staff will consider all three approaches to value (cost, market and income), selecting the one that best predicts the current market value of the property.

Paul Miller, Tyler Technologies’ eastern regional sales leader, 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.

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.

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.

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