Sussex County Hasn't Reassessed Property Values in 40 Years - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Sussex County Hasn't Reassessed Property Values in 40 Years

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GEORGETOWN, Del. - After months of work, Rehoboth Beach has started sending people their new tax bills, based on property values that have been reassessed for the first time in 46 years. In the aftermath, many residents are questioning whether the county should act in a similar matter. Sussex County has not reassessed its property values since 1974, when they first set those amounts. 

County Administrator Todd Lawson said any reassessment would have to be done state-wide. In Kent County, the last reassessment was in 1987, and in New Castle County it was done in 1983.  

Lawson said that the idea has been tossed around multiple times over the last 40 years, but said recently there has been little political will to do so. He said the main deterrent to action has been cost. When reassessment was last considered in the 1990's, he said the cost was nearly $13 million. 

"It's a very, very significant expense," he said. "And a significant effort. I mean, think about it. You go out and you canvas the entire county. And see every property every improvement. It's a great expense." 

He said that the property values they have are old, but consistent from home to home. For that reason, he said the reassessment would do little to the tax revenue brought in. As for the homeowners, he said the change would be a shake-up.

"With a reassessment it's a third, a third, a third," he said. "One third of the properties see their bills go up, a third see their bills stay the same, and a third see their bills go down." 

William Albanese of Lewes said the change is needed. He said that after 40 years, it would be a necessary "equalization," even if it's marginal changes for most homeowners. 

"I think it's actually progressive thinking," he said. "I think it's a good idea. There's been a lot of change in property in Sussex county over the last 20 years." 

The county would drop the tax rate, and alter the equation if the property values were reassessed so that a similar amount of revenue would be generated.

Complicating the matter, Lawson said the majority of the collected taxes are given to the state for the schools. For that reason, he said one county could not act on this reassessment alone. The only way this would be possible would be for the state to pay for the reassessment within all three counties. 

Nancy Satchell of Laurel said that paying millions of dollars, just to end up with a similar tax bill for most would be a waste of money. 

"We should stay where we are," she said. "Because who's going to pay 13 million dollars. No one."
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