Wilmington gets OK to join property tax assessment lawsuit

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A Delaware chancellor ruled that the City of Wilmington can to join a lawsuit filed last year by the Community Legal Aid Society, Inc.

The city joins Community LegalWil Aid and the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware (ACLU) against the New Castle County Government.

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki said Wilmington supports the plaintiffs’ claims against the county in that court case and also sought the court’s approval to file its own claims against the county requesting that the court order the county government to conduct a county-wide property 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 Mayor Mike Purzycki. “All property owners—city and county—have been left to deal with outdated, unreliable and inaccurately assessed values which harm property owners.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.”

In asking the court to allow it to become part of the lawsuit against the county, the city made the following arguments:

  • Property taxes, which are determined by assessed property values, are a major source of revenue from which the city and county provide services to the public;
  • The county’s failure to perform a general reassessment has had an irreparable and ongoing detrimental effect on the city’s ability to raise revenue to fund city programs and services;
  • The county has a constitutional duty to uniformly assess all real property within its boundaries;
  • The county has a tainted history of an indefensible administration of its property tax system and acknowledges that its property tax system is inequitable;
  • The county’s failure to perform a general reassessment has caused other problems such as a backlog of property tax assessment appeals awaiting a hearing before the County Board of Assessment Review.

Last year, the CLASI and the ACLU sued state and county officials for failing to adequately fund educational opportunities for disadvantaged students. The plaintiffs said, in part, that the failure to properly fund such programs was related to the county’s continual failure to produce updated property tax assessment rolls.

Critics of the suit say the court’s involvement amounts t judicial overreached.

To date, the state and counties have been unable to get the suit dismissed.

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