New Castle County will begin laying the groundwork to pay for what could be the first county-wide property reassessment in more than 30 years.
An ordinance passed Tuesday by County Council creates a reserve in the County’s general fund that could be used to pay for a reassessment if it happens. The legislation passed 11 ‘yes,’ 2 absent.
This comes as an education funding lawsuit seeks to force Delaware’s three counties to reassess properties. A judge recently allowed the City of Wilmington to join that lawsuit with a complaint about the impact dated assessments have on its tax revenue.
Councilman Dave Carter cosponsored the ordinance. “Trying to wait and wait and have to do it all at once under a court order could be very problematic and very painful—and is in one shot to the public," said Carter. “By trying to build a reserve account and get some money aside hopefully we can lessen that.”
Carter adds that the outdated assessment has created tax inequities in the county.
“What I can do is pull up tax records of similar houses in the same neighborhoods and find significantly different assessments,” he said. “What I can see is problems with agricultural buildings in Southern New Castle County that are being taxed much higher than other areas of the states.”
Initial funding for the account will come from a controversial $3 million loan to be paid back to the County by the Delaware Board of Trade. The legislation estimates reassessment will likely cost over $26 million.
New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer says if Wilmington is interested in reassessment, the city “should go ahead and reassess.”
“I hope their interest in intervening in the lawsuit is also an indication that they’re willing to foot part of the very large bill to eventually do a reassessment,” said Meyer.