The City of Wilmington can join a legal challenge seeking to force property reassessment in the First State.
City officials say a Chancery Court judge is allowing Wilmington to join an ongoing lawsuit over state education funding. That suit argues the lack of recent assessment by the state’s three counties contributes to funding inequities that harm disadvantaged students.
But the city’s complaint has nothing to do with education.
In its motion to intervene, the city said the county’s failure to reassess properties since 1984 directly harms the city’s ability to “effectively and fairly administer its own property tax system.” Additionally, it argued New Castle County’s failure to do a general property reassessment for so long has had an “irreparable” impact on City revenue.
City officials claim recent tax assessment appeals of a few commercial properties in Wilmington have resulted in the loss of more than $1.2 million to the City’s annual property tax revenue.
Mayor Mike Purzycki praised the judge's decision to let Wilmington join the legal battle over reassessment.
“I am very pleased that the Court has allowed the City to participate in the ongoing lawsuit and to present its claims related to the County’s failure for nearly four decades to carry out a reassessment of property values,” said Purzycki in a statement. “All property owners—city and county—have been left to deal with outdated, unreliable and inaccurately assessed values which harm property owners. This has also affected the City government’s ability to effectively and fairly administer its own property tax system.”
Wilmington will ask the court to declare New Castle County’s current method of assessing property unconstitutional and unlawful. It will also demand an immediate countywide reassessment supervised by Chancery Court.
New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer had argued the city has the power under state law to reassess property on its own.
Bur Purzycki and the city responded that while Wilmington could reassess for its taxes, that's only one half of the property tax that city residents pay, noting state law requires that the schools use the county reassessment.
New Castle County is considering steps to prepare for reassessment. Members of New Castle County Council introduced legislation this week that would set up an account that could help pay to reassess properties.