Strange postings from Stamford residents are proliferating on social media sites.
One poster reported spotting a “creep” taking photos of houses on her street. Her neighbors responded with guesses: it could be a realtor, an appraiser, “a guy from the insurance company,” a burglar planning break-ins. Maybe it’s a guy photographing the house where he grew up, one neighbor guessed.
Posters put up photographs captured on their home security cameras, reporting that someone took a picture of their porch, or went into their backyard and took a picture of their shed, or stood on their lawn and took several pictures of their house.
“Does anyone recognize him?” someone posted about a man captured on a home security camera. “I called the police.”
There may be several explanations for the sightings, but it’s likely there is one explanation for many of them.
It’s revaluation time in Stamford.
State law requires that each municipality reassess the value of all properties within its borders every five years. Each municipality is on its own schedule, and this is Stamford’s year.
The city signed a $910,000 contract with a Fairfield company, Municipal Valuation Services, to collect data on all the structures in Stamford. MuniVal employees started last summer and are expected to finish this September. Their job is to photograph and inspect the exteriors of residential and commercial properties.
This year they are knocking on doors to also request that they be allowed to inspect interiors, and to ask homeowners questions if they think they need more information to determine an accurate property value.
That’s because, for Stamford, 2022 is a year of physical revaluation, which requires in-person visits. They alternate every five years with statistical revaluations, which reassess value based on analysis of market conditions, without the visits.
It’s easy to see why physical revaluations might make residents nervous.
For that reason, MuniVal employees are required to carry photo IDs from the company and the city, plus a letter of introduction from the Stamford tax assessor, according to the city’s website.
A description of each employee, and their vehicle and license plate number, is on file with the tax assessor and Stamford police, according to mailers the city sent to property owners.
This year, there’s something residents may think is just as alarming as strangers in their yards taking photographs.
Call it a COVID revaluation.
During the pandemic, property values in Connecticut skyrocketed. It happened largely because New Yorkers fled the crowded confines of the city for the more spacious suburbs, pushing Connecticut home prices to heights not seen since the real estate boom of 15 years ago.
It means that properties revalued now will reflect inflated pandemic sale prices, which will mean significant tax increases for Stamford residents next year.
The way revaluation works is that real estate values as of Oct. 1 of this year will be used to calculate property taxes that will be due on July 1 next year. By some estimates, residential property taxes in Stamford could increase 15 percent next year.
But city and state officials saw it coming, and lobbied for a bill that Gov. Ned Lamont signed into law on May 17. The law delays implementation of the 2022 revaluation until 2023. It affects Stamford and three other towns – Danbury, Wilton and Orange – that also have revaluations this year.
The hope is that if the revaluations are held for a year, pandemic prices will level off and the market then will present a fairer assessment of property values.
State Rep. David Michel of Stamford was a co-sponsor of the bill as it made its way to Lamont’s desk. All that remains is for the Stamford Board of Representatives to implement the delay, Michel said.
“I figured it was a good thing to enable the Board of Reps to vote on possibly pushing back the reval,” Michel said.
During a February public comment period on the bill, Stamford Mayor Caroline Simmons offered testimony in favor of the delay, saying inflation is exerting pressure on household budgets.
“It would be unfair for Connecticut residents to face higher taxes due to the increased value of their properties,” Simmons testified.
The law affects six other towns – Norwalk, Norfolk, Windsor Locks, Suffield, Willington and Barkhamsted – that have revaluations in 2023. Those towns have the option to enact a delay until 2024.
On social media, at least one person posted that a man caught on a security camera photographing houses could be working on the revaluation.
“It was the city,” the Stamford resident wrote. “For property taxes.”