At a recent Board of Selectmen meeting, Selectman candidate Ira Kaplan brought an issue to the attention of the Board and the public. He said, “Some members of our campaign group looked into the taxes paid by the Aquarion Water Company and brought their findings to my attention. When I looked at the valuations of some Aquarion land, I found that many parcels were valued lower than the state recommendations for the past 13 years if not longer.”
Kaplan found that there are thousands of acres of reservoir property that are assessed at about $3,000 per acre. He said, “By contrast, there is reservoir property in nearby towns appraised at $30,000 or $40,000 per acre. If the reservoirs of Easton were appraised at the same $30,000 per acre that we found for a Fairfield reservoir, our town tax revenue from Aquarion would be about $400,000 higher.”
Aquarion is Easton’s largest taxpayer.
Kaplan said that the giant has been undertaxed for years, with that burden borne instead by the residents of Easton. He added that he wants to know how so little attention could have been paid to the taxes from our largest taxpayer to allow this leakage for all these years.
When approached by hello, Easton, Assessor Rachel Maciulewski made this statement by email, “As we are governed by State Statutes, under the Connecticut Law the assessment of all parcels in Town represent 70% of the fair market value of the 2016 Revaluation. Revaluations are conducted every 5 years and the property values will be reviewed and revalued during our next Revaluation in 2021.”
Kaplan later said that it had been a suspicion among some residents that Aquarion probably was not contributing as much as they should. Several Eastonites started looking into the actual assessments.
It was noted that Aquarion land categorized as forest land or farm land under Public Act 490 was being assessed at about $91 per acre. Although the state of CT recommends an assessment of about $240 per acre.
Kaplan said, “As the data was gathered we also found that the reservoirs were assessed as “residential vacant land”, but only at around $3,000 per acre.” He said he has a recent document from Fairfield showing a 215.09-acre Aquarion reservoir appraised at 6,452,700 ($30,000 per acre) and assessed at 4,516,890 ($21,000 per acre). This is where the difference between what is collected from Aquarion, and what perhaps could or should be collected, is in the hundreds of thousands annually.
At the recent debate, candidate Kristi Sogofsky said that land is valued at different amounts per town so it may not be correct to compare Easton with properties in other towns. She also explained that an outside firm does the evaluations.
Selectman Adam Dunsby referred this matter to the tax assessor. Ms. Maciulewski reiterated that there would be no reevaluations before the time planned in 2021.