After decades of no regular property assessments, all three Delaware counties likely will be required to conduct them every five years, after the current reassessment forced by a court order ends in 2025.
House Bill 62, sponsored by Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton, D-Newark, passed the Senate Tuesday. It would require counties to reassess real property values at least once every five years, starting with the next reassessment.
The bill now goes to Gov. John Carney for his signature before becoming law.
Property reassessments have not been done in New Castle County since 1983, in Kent County since 1987, and in Sussex County since 1974. Kent County will finish its reassessment first, by the end of 2024, with New Castle and Sussex counties having a deadline of the end of 2025.
“An absence of consistent and routine property reassessments from one end of our state to the other has played a major role in the funding disparities and socioeconomic inequities that have been hallmarks of Delaware’s public education system for decades,” said Sen. Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman.
One reason property values are important, as is updating them regularly, is because they dictate how much a resident pays in local taxes, which affects school funding.
Lockman said it’s crucial to prevent residential property tax and education funding systems from falling further and further out of alignment with reality.
PREVIOUS DISCUSSION: House sends 5-year property reassessment bill to Senate
By establishing a clear timeline for reassessment, Lockman said Delaware can ensure that its assessed values are accurately reflected, promoting fairness and equity throughout the state.
She pointed out that neighboring state Maryland requires reassessments every three years, and Pennsylvania conducts them annually.
Lockman read a statement from the Delaware Association of Counties, which said “the counties collectively see the inherent value and regularly reassessing property values in accordance with industry standards in order to avoid costly legal suits and the more expensive boots-on-the-ground method of reassessment that is currently underway in all three counties.”
Sen. Eric Buckson, R-Dover, said he supports the bill.
“It’s a real clear statement to recognize that Delaware has a duty and obligation based on the laws that we currently have in our constitution to ensure that we don’t go down the path that led us to where we are today,” he said.
The current system of reassessment is flawed, he said.
Buckson also cited the lawsuit that “forced the state’s hands” into conducting reassessments for the first time in decades.
The NAACP of Delaware and Delawareans for Educational Opportunity filed a lawsuit against the state in 2018, claiming the lack of consistent reassessments had denied adequate funding for Delaware schools, particularly those serving disadvantaged students.
Among other requirements, the decision of that lawsuit required Delaware to conduct property reassessments.
“Nobody wants to do this, but it is what it is,” Buckson said. “I did talk to the counties, Kent County specifically, and they recognize the five years has been a fair approach.”
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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