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Property reassessments now required every 5 years

Katie Tabeling
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Delaware is now required to handle regular property tax assessments once in a five-year basis, as Gov. John Carney quietly signed the bill into law.

Delaware’s real property is now required to be reassessed at least once per five years, under a new law. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON — Delaware is now required to handle regular property tax assessments once in a five-year basis, as Gov. John Carney quietly signed the bill into law earlier this month.

House Bill 62, sponsored by Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton (D-Newark/Bear), requires that each county reassess property at least once every five years. The clock starts when the current reassessment cycle, triggered when the Delaware Court of Chancery ruled the state was using outdated metrics, is complete.

Wilson-Anton said much of the opposition against the bill was focused on “drastic changes in property values,” but requiring a regular process would bring stability and predictability to the process.

“Going decades without property reassessment creates severe inequities among various properties and with funding that’s tied to assessments. It leads to resources not being collected and allocated fairly,” Wilson-Anton said. “Schools are particularly hard-hit by using outdated property values to collect property taxes. This new law will create a clearer and more accurate picture of property values, allowing school districts to raise funds fairly and equitably.” 

HB 62 also requires property to be assessed at its “present fair market value” instead of at its “true value in money” to further streamline the law’s language to follow the court ruling.

New Castle County has not adjusted its property tax valuations since 1983, while Kent and Sussex counties have not adjusted theirs since 1987 and 1974, respectively. Each of the counties calculates its “base year” from those dates on which to base its assessments.

“I know it can be concerning to do this,” Wilson-Anton added. “But if we were frozen by fear, it would be another 40 years before we’d do a property reassessment, and the problem would be exponentially worse.”

Delaware Association of Realtors President Chrissy Steele said that the trade organization was neutral on HB 62, but noted overall that the benefit to public education will be a win for all.

“Ideally, this will help us improve our schools and infrastructures, and that’s important to homeowners — as well as opening more opportunities to living in this state,” Steele told the Delaware Business Times. “There’s no general consensus on this yet. Members have a more ‘wait and see’ approach for now.”

Delaware has some of the lowest property taxes in the country right now, according to a 2023 WalletHub survey. It ranks as eighth lowest, tied with Utah. That survey shows that the average Delaware home is valued at $269,700 and has a property tax bill of $1,570.

However, that’s still before the current cycle reassessment is complete. Right now, Delaware’s three counties are in the middle of a vast reassessment project with contractor Tyler Technologies. Combined, the three counties have contracted $27.8 million to reassess the 482,097 properties in the state.

Kent County’s reassessment is expected to be complete in spring of 2024, while Sussex and New Castle County are expected to be done by spring of 2025.

“In Kent County, 100% of field data collection has been completed and is being reviewed,” Tyler Technologies Senior Media Relations Specialist Karen Shields said. “We anticipate notice of tentative values will be mailed to property owners in Kent County late this year.”

Once Tyler Technologies is done the reassessment, it is likely Kent County will be reassessed again by 2029 and Sussex and New Castle County by 2030 by the latest.

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