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Lower property values could lead to higher taxes

CORNWALL — In the coming months, the town will be looking at budgets for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2012. The effect of the revaluation of taxable properties will weigh heavily into the equation.In the annual town report, published late last month and reviewed at the Oct. 28 annual town meeting, the assessor reports a “modest resurgence” of building permits and property sales. But a revaluation of taxable property is underway, and the new assessments will reflect the lower sale prices of properties over the last two years. The grand list of all taxable property in town is expected to drop, which means that property taxes are likely to increase. On the opposite page in the report is another element that will impact the grand list and town finances. In his report, Building Official Paul Prindle predicts the trend of a slow rate of new construction will continue. Those added property values are an important boost to tax revenues; properties with buildings on them are taxed at a higher rate than undeveloped land.He offers a look over the past decade from the perspective of the number of permits issued for new dwellings, additions and other property improvements, along with the number of new dwellings and total construction value.Fiscal year 2001-02 was the highest of the decade, with nearly $17 million and eight new homes. But it was not the highest year in terms of permits. Consider its 296 permits compared to 2006-07 and 2007-08 with 346 and 345, and total value of $14.4 million and $13.3 million.The lowest year for construction value was 2004-05 with $5.4 million. A surge in the cost of construction materials in mid-fiscal year was attributed to Hurricane Katrina.The downward trend in new home building has continued for the past five years, which may reflect the uncertainty of the national economy. Major fluctuations are attributed to a variety of factors that impact each other. For instance, when homes are not selling, homeowners often chose to expand or make other improvements. That shows in the most recent years, with more permits but lower value.A detailed analysis of the last 25 years is available at the building official’s office in Town Hall.

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