Reassessment plans for Rehoboth Beach UPDATE OCTOBER 5

Rehoboth steps closer to reassessment

Letter to citizens, town hall meeting planned by Comnmissioners

By Ryan Mavity

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Rehoboth Beach officials have reached a compromise when it comes to moving ahead with the first citywide property re­assessment since 1968.

The city commissioners unanimously approved allowing City Manager Greg Ferrese to solicit proposals, but with pub­lic education initiatives built into the pro­posal. Those initiatives include a letter to citizens explaining the reassessment and a town hall meeting.

While the start date for a reassessment has been slated for December, the com­missioners gave Ferrese the authority to adjust the dates if necessary. The winning bidder will not be able to conduct any field work until the city is satisfied that public awareness efforts are complete.

Commissioner Pat Coluzzi supported sending out a letter to citizens, saying people should know the reassessment is revenue neutral, and the city is not raising taxes.

The commissioners began discussing reassessment earlier this year after being quoted a rate of $40 per parcel or $128,000. The city budgeted $132,000 for reassessment but after agreeing to seek bids, commissioners put off action over the summer.

Mayor Sam Cooper placed the item on the commissioners’ Sept. 21 agenda to move the process forward, which drew the ire of Commissioner Mark Hunker, who felt the process was being rushed.

At the Sept. 21 meeting, Coop­er said all property in the city is being assessed at 1968 value, which doesn’t reflect changes in land and building values since. The last time the city reassessed, Ferrese quipped, gas cost 28 cents per gallon.

Cooper said the system has be­come so unfair, with homes be­ing valued much higher than land when in fact the opposite is true, that something needed to be done. He said a reassessment would modernize the system and provide up-to-date property val­ues. Hunker said he is not against reassessment, but the city should communicate how a reassess­ment will affect every property owner in town.

He suggested sending a letter to citizens explaining what is go­ing on and holding a town hall meeting to explain what will happen. Hunker said the city should also work out an appeals process before it begins seeking proposals.

Cooper said the request for proposals was a means for in­forming the public of the details of a reassessment. He said if the city knows who it is working with, that firm could be the city’s partner in getting the word out. Commissioner Stan Mills said the city needs a good communi­cation plan, but the selected as­sessing firm should provide help in the education process.

Commissioner Bill Sargent said the city has had an open process, with reassessment dis­cussed at previous commission­ers’ meetings. Sargent said the system is unfair, and the city needs to get on it right away. He said the city could focus on edu­cation after it has selected a con­tractor.

Sargent asked Hunker why he wanted to delay the process. Hunker said, “It’s been 44 years; what is the urgency?” Cooper said if he hadn’t put the matter on the agenda, reassessment never would have come up.

Commissioner Patrick Gossett suggested putting out a heads-up letter within the next 10 to 15 days while moving forward with the request for proposals on a parallel track. Hunker said with a Nov. 16 date for contract ap­proval and a Dec. 3 start date, there was no time built in for dis­cussion and preparation.

Cooper said it was his inten­tion to inform citizens, and the city should have a review. He said reassessment is the last thing he wants to do, but the sys­tem has become so unfair it war­rants action. Cooper said while he wants to start reassessment in December, he is willing to push the schedule back.

After the meeting, Cooper said there are no dates yet for when any of the public education will begin.