Delaware Public Media

Delaware lawmakers unlikely to demand property value reassessments

Jan 9, 2019

Delaware could move to reassess property values statewide this year. But it’s more likely to be through a court order than political will.

Gov. John Carney’s administration is expected to file a response soon in the lawsuit challenging the First State’s education funding formula.

Property values have not been reassessed in over 30 years and the outdated assessments are a core issue in a pending lawsuit over state education funding.

A Chancery Court judge denied the counties’ motion last year to dismiss one portion dealing with artificially low property values, arguing it was up to state lawmakers to decide when to do assessments.

But some lawmakers, like House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf  (D-Rehoboth Beach), say they’re reluctant to move on the issue on their own. Schwartzkopf also said it's something no one is talking about doing.

The speaker said the state shouldn’t bear the cost for new assessments when counties can do that anytime - and get more money for schools by hiking local taxes. 

“And where does the property tax go, where does it go? It goes to the county and they have the ability that if they want more money they can raise the rate of the value that they have," he said. “They can take the same assessed value they have and if they want more money, just raise the rate."

Schwartzkopf said it only makes sense for the state to pay if there was a statewide property tax. But he adds he’s not in favor of new taxes.

Gov. Carney said statewide assessments are way overdue. He suggests the state could pay for it out of the proceeds from the reassessments. Alternatively, the counties or the state could cover the entire cost or share the expense.