GEORGETOWN — Sussex County has enlisted the expertise of a nationally known firm to undertake its massive property reassessment — a task precipitated by litigation impacting all three Delaware counties.
At its Tuesday meeting, County Council approved a $9 million-plus contract with Tyler Technologies to tackle the project, the county’s first reassessment since 1974.
The cost to the county includes a base price of $9,070,818, with a $44-per-parcel rate for any amount over 185,402 parcels between now and 2024.
“(Tyler’s) standard contract … allows for some growth,” said Christopher Keeler, Sussex County’s director of assessment.
County Finance Director Gina Jennings added, “We have 182,662 parcels. There is a 1.5% growth in the contract to allow the contract to cover 185,402 parcels.”
The timetable is for the reassessment project to begin July 1. Completion is expected by Feb. 15, 2024.
From July through September of this year, preparation and planning will take place. Data collection will occur September through November.
Mr. Keeler informed council that, with contract approval, Tyler Technologies representatives will visit members next week to give an overview and answer any questions.
In April, County Council voted to enter into a settlement agreement with plaintiffs in the education-funding lawsuit brought against Sussex — as well as the state and its other counties — in the Court of Chancery in 2018.
The suit alleged that an inadequate and outdated model for valuing property shortchanges Delaware students and public schools. Despite the county’s challenge to the litigants’ claims, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs last year, then ordered all parties to work toward a remedy.
Council’s action ended the legal wrangling over the issue and lays the groundwork for the county to move forward on a general reassessment of all properties, to be completed in time for tax bills to be issued in the latter half of 2024.
Sussex joined Kent and New Castle counties, as well as the state, in settling their respective portions of the litigation.
“People make comments sometimes about the county doing this to get more tax money … or whatever,” said County Council President Michael Vincent. “This initiative was not instituted by this Sussex County Council in any way, shape or form. It was a lawsuit brought against the county, all three counties, with people trying to get more money for the school districts.
So it has nothing to do with the county government trying (to) go in here and raise your taxes for some reason.”
Mr. Keeler said Tyler Technologies’ appraisal and tax division was established in Dayton, Ohio, in 1938 “and remains the country’s only national appraisal company.”
Tyler has more than 15,000 local-government clients throughout all 50 states, he added, noting that the county already uses Tyler’s iasWorld assessment software that will be utilized to perform the project.
Sussex County received two bids for the reassessment project. The other, from Pearson Appraisal Services, had a completion date of January 2025 and a base amount of $13,973,000.
Both proposals were reviewed by a committee comprised of county assessment, finance and information technology department representatives. The proposal was also reviewed by the county’s attorney.
Additionally, Sussex County contracted with an International Association of Assessing Officers consultant to provide feedback.
“We wanted an independent review from someone that is familiar with the IAAO assessment standards we must follow,” Ms. Jennings said.