Real Estate Update: New Castle County Agrees to Complete General Reassessment of All Property in Time for Fiscal Year 2024 Property Tax Bills

January 27, 2021

Publication| Real Estate Services

Following its highly publicized decision of In re Delaware Public Schools Litigation, C.A. No. CV 2018-0029-JTL (County Track), 2020 WL 2296888 (Del. Ch. May 8, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery has granted a Stipulation and Order requiring that New Castle County complete a general reassessment of all real property in the county and that such reassessed values be placed on the assessment roll used to issue property tax bills in fiscal year 2024.  During what is expected to be a costly and lengthy process, every property in New Castle County will be evaluated by assessors who will update each property’s value under current real estate market conditions.  This process will likely result in a large number of assessment appeals from property owners across New Castle County.  Notably, this Stipulation and Order only requires a single reassessment of the property, and does not provide any obligation to or framework for New Castle County to conduct future reassessments.  During this process, the county must provide quarterly written progress reports on the reassessment to the plaintiffs, Delawareans for Educational Opportunity and NAACP Delaware Conference of Branches.

If New Castle County exercises its best efforts to complete the reassessment by July 1, 2023, the deadline for completion, but fails to do so for reasons beyond its control, it may seek an extension.  However, if the county fails to undertake good faith efforts to complete the general reassessment by the deadline, the plaintiffs can bring an expedited proceeding before the Delaware Court of Chancery.

Importantly, this Stipulation and Order is only between the above-named plaintiffs, defendant Michael R. Smith in his capacity as Chief Financial Officer of New Castle County, and New Castle County, so it does not impact the current method of property assessment in Kent or Sussex County.  It is unknown whether Kent County or Sussex County will agree to similar stipulations.  It appears that, absent such stipulations, the court will likely move forward with the hearing regarding the remedy in the County Track of this litigation scheduled for March 29 and 30, 2021.

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