84 Century Ltd. Partnership v. Board of Tax Review – Case Brief Summary (Connecticut)

In 84 Century Ltd. Partnership v. Board of Tax Review, 207 Conn. at 250, 541 A.2d at 478 (1988) the Court considered whether a municipal assessor has the power, under § 12-55, to increase a real property assessment between decennial revaluations on the ground that a sale of the property in question demonstrates that the property has greatly increased in value in relation to other properties in the municipality.

In holding that a municipal assessor has such power, the court stated: "Section 12-55 contains three operative phrases pertinent to our inquiry:

(1) 'When the lists of any town have been so received or made by the assessors, they shall equalize the same, if necessary';

(2) 'make any assessment omitted by mistake or required by law';

(3) 'the assessors may increase or decrease the valuation of property as named in any such lists or in the last preceding grand list' . . . . There is no ambiguity in this broad grant of powers to assessors.

It is a clear legislative mandate to grant to local assessors a continuing duty unrelated to decennial revaluations, to achieve administratively a fair and equal assessment for all taxpayers. The power to equalize the lists, if necessary, imports a watchtower role for the assessor to correct inequalities, whether too high or too low. The 'if necessary' language clearly comprehends interim changes in assessments for there is no such requirement in § 12-62 which mandates decennial revaluations. The latter have obviously been legislatively deemed necessary." Id., at 262.

The court further rejected the plaintiff's claim that § 12- 55 authorized only changes "omitted by mistake" or "required by law." "Such a restrictive interpretation ignores the plain language of the statute. The fact that these two additional powers are specifically set out does not in any way limit the broad power to equalize assessments provided for earlier in the statute. The most logical interpretation of the effect of these two additional powers is that in addition to the power to equalize assessments the assessors are also empowered to make these specified changes. Assessing property omitted by mistake is a common sense administrative duty having no relation to the 'equalizing' function of the assessors. The same may be said of the added function of making any assessment 'required by law.' If it is required by law, the assessors are required to make it whether or not it is included in this section. Finally, the statute specifically gives to assessors the power to increase or decrease the value of assessed property." Id., at 262-63.