By Erin Post

The town of Warren has asked the state for more time to complete a town-wide property reappraisal.

Lister Priscilla Robinson said the new deadline to complete the reappraisal and file data with the state is June of 2008, allowing the town an additional year to complete the project.

The state requires towns to reappraise property when the common level of appraisal (CLA) falls below 80 percent of fair market value. According to the state Department of Taxes, the CLA is an equalization process that ensures properties "of equal value pay equal taxes" to the state education funding system.

The CLA benchmark was triggered in Warren about one year ago, Robinson said.

"We knew it was coming," she said, adding that her office had already started to prepare for the project.

But a long, snowy winter -- which made property inspections challenging -- combined with high demand for consulting firms and a busy real estate market featuring lots of sales and new construction all contributed to the decision to extend the project.

Rather than rush to complete the reappraisal this year and send tax bills out late, possibly not until September, the listers' office decided it would be most beneficial to the town to continue work on the project for another year, Robinson said. Also, she said state-mandated changes to this year's property tax bills -- involving the way prebates and rebates are administered to taxpayers -- made it a poor time to be sending bills out later than usual.

The goal of a town-wide property reappraisal is to achieve fair and accurate property assessments across town and across the range of property types. A reappraisal requires property inspections as well as analysis of market trends and other data to determine the value of parcels.

Generally, a listers' office has two options: hire a private company to complete the reappraisal or take on the project themselves.

Robinson said her office has done the majority of property inspections and plans to hire several consultants to help her staff of three with data input and analysis. With so many municipalities in Vermont under mandate to complete a reappraisal -- thanks in part to rapidly rising market values-the town of Warren is not alone in seeking the services of private firms.

"There's a shortage of reappraisal companies with time," she said.

She told the select board last month that her office has been communicating with several companies interested in working with the town. The town has funds in the capitol budget specifically earmarked for the reappraisal, Robinson said.

For town residents and business owners, delaying the reappraisal for one year means that they will be paying taxes based on the current value of their property. The exception is property owners who have completed major improvements -- such as new decks, garages or other structures -- may have increased their property's value.

Generally, however, "the majority [of property owners] should stay somewhere near where they are now," Robinson said.

Robinson said work on this year's Grand List is nearly complete, and she expected to file it with the state shortly.

The last time Warren completed a town-wide reappraisal was in 1997, Robinson said.