Wilmington may go to court to force a countywide property reassessment

The City of Wilmington may go to court to try to force a countywide property reassessment, a move the New Castle County Executive called "unnecessary."

Mayor Mike Purzycki said Tuesday, January 22, 2019, that the city was looking to join a case filed in Chancery Court by the Community Legal Aid Society and the American Civil Liberties Union, which was centered around the fairness of Delaware's school funding formula and its reliance on outdated property assessment. Purzycki indicated he supported the plaintiffs' arguments that a property assessment was long overdue.

According to Purzycki, the current formula has resulted in some of the city's poorest homeowners, condo owners, and some businesses paying an unfairly high portion of property tax.

"What happens over time is these property owners appeal, their tax goes down but then there's no offset any other way so the city continues to lose money over time," Purzycki said. "We just can't afford to lose that revenue."

Purzycki also took issue with a response issued by the office of New County Executive Matt Meyer, in which Meyer is quoted as saying, "There is no need to waste city and county taxpayer money by litigating this issue in court."

"If they city wants to reassess property, it has the power to do so under state law," Meyer said in the statement. "In fact, Dover and Rehoboth reassess property on their own. Delaware law grants municipalities the authority to reassess properties within their boundaries."

Purzycki said Meyer failed to note that the law requires county assessments to be used when school taxes and county taxes are calculated. A city reassessment would apply to only city taxes, according to Purzycki. 

"Since it is only a matter of time before a court orders the county to reassess, telling the city that it should conduct its own would result in two separate reassessment exercises for which taxpayers should be rightly furious," Purzycki said in a later statement Tuesday.

According to the city's filing, there has not been a general property reassessment in more than 35 years. Purzycki was a member of New Castle County Council at that time.