Town Council members were won over with the ‘you get what you pay for’ argument at Tuesday’s meeting and voted to award the contract for the town’s upcoming real estate revaluation to two companies at a cost of $458,000.
The town is required to complete the revaluation by December 2012 by making a physical inspection of each piece of property in town and evaluating its worth by today’s market standard. The last revaluation, conducted in town in 2007, was a statistical revaluation in which Tyler Technologies visited a percentage of properties and applied the findings to all property.
Town staff recommended splitting the revaluation between two companies, with Tyler Technologies of Tolland handling real estate properties and PBS Systems LLC of Hartford managing all commercial and exempt property.
Town Manager Kathy Eagen and Finance Director Joseph Swetcky told the council that though the two companies were not the low bidders, they would ultimately save the town money in legal fees and the costs of expert testimony. And, she said, assessor’s office staff was comfortable with the quality of the two companies’ work.
PBS has also done a previous revaluation in town and Swetcky said, routinely appears as an expert witness for the town in assessment appeals cases. As the company responsible for the revaluation, PBS court testimony would be included in the fee.
“We feel very comfortable with them doing it but they are a small firm and we do have some concern about them doing both parts,” Swetcky said of PBS. “It has to be done by December 2012 and it’s usually a two-year process. To have someone do this in about a year and a half, we felt that splitting it between two firms that are very knowledgeable about the town is the best way to go.”
Another company offered a lower bid on condition the town buy and adopt its software, a proposition Swetcky said he refused because the town had invested $50,000 in new software two years ago. Plus, the process of training town staff on the new software and going through a data conversion at the same time as the revaluation would cut down on manpower when the assessor’s staff has already been reduced by a person.
Council members CJ Thomas and Charlie Keniston were initially very critical of the recommendation to take the higher bidders and probed Swetcky’s reasons for passing over the other firms. Eventually both were satisfied.
“The cost difference is substantial – that certainly jumps right out at me. But I haven’t heard you or Kathy support something if you didn’t believe there was a reason to. I know you never spend any more than you have to,” Thomas said.
Swetcky warned the council it would be important to choose capable firms because he predicted most residences would see a substantial decrease in property values, resulting in a large – possibly 9 percent – increase in property taxes.
“We want to make sure we have the best numbers out there and most of you who are back on the council are going to hear a lot of taxpayer complaints,” he said.
Swetcky noted that Farmington is among a handful of municipalities looking to gain the option to postpone the revaluation, though he said he would recommend doing the work now anyway.