Sussex County homeowners will begin to get an early glimpse into the accuracy of a long-running reassessment effort.
Beginning later this month, ‘data mailers’ will go out to residential property owners in Georgetown, with other areas set to receive their notices through spring 2024 as Sussex County’s court-ordered reassessment project continues. The deadline for completing the reassessment has been pushed back due in part to the staffing issues and the time required to inspect the exteriors of properties.
Contrary to popular myth, the goal of reassessment is for the process to be revenue-neutral, with some tax bills going down. Annual tax increases for properties found to be under-assessed are limited.
Under recent legislation, reassessments will now take place every five years.
The mailers contain information about each parcel and home present, such as the year a structure was built, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, basement data, garage space, detached structures, a sketch/photo of the building, and other specs.
The mailers are the latest step in an ongoing effort to revalue all properties in the state following a lawsuit over outdated property values settled by the three counties, the state, and litigants in 2021. Assessments are used to calculate annual property taxes, with revenue collected for local government services and public education.
A coalition of civil rights and other advocacy groups filing the suit claimed that school district tax revenues were shortchanged, especially in Sussex, due to the lack of reassessments. Chancery Court agreed, despite objections from counties and the state that claimed current assessments were fair, with the cost of physical reassessments being excessive.
Sussex property taxes are among the lowest in the region due in part to rapid growth that has put more homes and commercial developments on the tax rolls.
Critics outside the county have claimed Sussex does not pay its fair share of taxes for police protection and other state services. Only New Castle County has a police department in unincorporated areas. Sussex, unlike New Castle County, does not operate a park system, due to a large number of state and municipal parks. Sussex County does make an annual payment for State Police salaries, and incorporated communities within the county have their own police departments.
The “data mailers” in a standard business envelope marked with a ‘Sussex County Tax Assessment’ header and return address will feature preliminary assessment information about each residential parcel. Only property owners with a dwelling on their parcel will receive a mailer. Vacant properties and commercial sites will not receive the notices.
The ‘data mailers’ offer property owners a chance to review, confirm, or correct any information that could affect their property’s future assessed value. The forms offer detailed instructions for completing the form, making corrections, and a glossary of terms.
The goal of the mailers is to ensure accuracy and the highest level of assessment data, said County Assessment Director Christopher Keeler. “It’s in property owners’ best interests to make sure the information is correct so that the county has as an accurate assessment for their tax bill,” Keeler said.
Property owners who receive a the mailer and have questions or concerns can contact the County’s contracted vendor for the reassessment project, Tyler Technologies, at (302) 854-5274 or email SussexCountyDE@tylertech.com.
Tyler Technologies is conducting the parcel-by-parcel reassessment project countywide, using aerial photos and performing site visits to evaluate each property and any improvements. Survey teams began canvassing the county in late 2021 and, at present, have reviewed about two-thirds of the approximate 190,000 parcels in Sussex.
All properties are being evaluated and re-calculated based on current industry-accepted methodologies to produce new assessments that reflect their true value in money, a requirement under Delaware law.