Judicial District of New Britain


      Taxation; Municipalities; Whether Defendant Town Properly Increased the Assessment Value of Plaintiff's Real Property Based on an Unfinished Construction Project.  The plaintiff owns real property in the town of Columbia.  In 2008, the subject property contained a partially constructed house.  The town's assessor conducted an interim property tax assessment, determining that, as of the October 1, 2008 grand list, the construction was 35 percent complete, and she valued the unfinished project at $569,500.  The assessor subsequently decided that, as of the October 1, 2009 grand list, the project was 40 percent complete and that its value had increased to $601,600.  The plaintiff filed two appeals in the Superior Court, arguing that the valuations were improper.  The trial court agreed, concluding that the valuations contravened General Statutes § 12-53a, which provides that, where new construction is completed after any assessment date, the property owner "shall be liable for the payment of municipal taxes from the date the certificate of occupancy is issued or the date on which such new construction is first used for the purpose for which same was constructed, whichever is the earlier, prorated for the assessment year in which the new construction is completed."  The court reasoned that there was no evidence that a certificate of occupancy for the subject house had ever been issued or that the plaintiff had been living in the house.  The court rejected the town's claim that the interim valuations were justified pursuant to General Statutes § 12-55, which provides that "[t]he assessor or board of assessors may increase or decrease the valuation of any property as reflected in the last-preceding grand list. . . ."  It stated that if, as the town argued, the assessor was required to value "any property" within the town on the date of revaluation, the language of § 12-53a would be superfluous.  The court added that the legislature's intention in enacting § 12-53a was to carve out an exception to § 12-55, namely, that new construction may only be assessed after a certificate of occupancy is issued upon the completion of the construction.  It therefore concluded that, without the issuance of a certificate of occupancy, there was no statutory authority for the assessor to value the subject premises as partially improved land.  Accordingly, the court entered judgment in favor of the plaintiff in both appeals.  In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the trial court's decision was correct.