SOUTHINGTON — After the grand list was released last month, the Record-Journal sat down with the town’s Director of Assessment and Revenue Teresa Babon to talk about her duel responsibilities as an assessor and tax collector, as well as her efforts to educate the public on the process.
Q: What are your main responsibilities?
Babon: I oversee the assessor’s office and the work that they do in town in regards to discovering, listing, and valuing taxable property for municipal tax purposes. The tax collector’s office collects the funds that are billed out on an annual basis in support of the town budget.
Q: What is your schedule like now?
Babon: The assessor’s office just signed the new upcoming grand list at the end of January and right now we’re in a little bit of a lull. Probably in the next month or so we’re going to start gearing up with balancing between the assessor’s office and tax collector’s office and getting ready to send the bills out for the new grand list. Those bills are due July 1.
Q: How long have you worked in this field?
Babon: I’ve been involved in the tax collection side of things since 1997. I got my certification in 2003 and I have most recently been in this position only since May of 2018. I worked my way up, I started taking classes, got my certification and worked my way up to deputy tax collector for Southington until the time that I applied to the city of Bristol to be their tax collector. I was in Bristol for nine years and just came back to work for Southington.
Q: What launched you into this type of work?
Babon: Well I never thought I would grow up to be a tax collector, or an assessor for that matter. I had just had my first child and my husband was looking through the paper. I had quit my full-time job to stay home with the baby and he came across a part-time job position in the tax office. It was just a couple hours a day … I started there.
Q: What is it like working for your own community?
Babon: I’m really proud of the community that I live in and work in. Just seeing the way these people rally together, especially at times like with Tops that just went through that terrible fire, … it’s very heartwarming.
Q: What are some of the skills required for this job?
Babon: You need to have a sunny disposition to deal with taxpayers who typically, when they come into the tax office or the assessor’s office, are not that pleased with us. Typically you’re coming here to pay a bill or dispute a bill. It’s up to us to try to turn that around and, while we might not necessarily give them the news they want to hear, we can at least do it in such a way that makes it easier to handle. You also need to be good with numbers and the certification is a must if you want to do the job correctly.
Q: What are some of the differences between assessing and tax collecting?
Babon: Tax collections are pretty black and white. We don’t waive interest for anybody, everything that one town does in regards to collecting taxes should be the way another town does the same function. I’m realizing there is a lot of gray area when it comes to assessing. There’s a lot more opportunity for judgment calls and valuing calls and there’s a lot more disagreement between the tax payer and the assessor.
Q: Do other towns operate with combined assessor and tax collector positions?
Babon: There’s not very many, I think not more than five that have a combined office or a director overseeing both sides.
Q: How does the assessment of motor vehicles work?
Babon: DMV will send us a listing of all the vehicles that are registered in Southington. They are priced by NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association), so we get the file which has most of the values already in it. There are some vehicles, trailers especially, motor homes, any kind of campers, some commercial vehicles which do not have values because they’re a little more complicated to value. Those are the ones we have to value manually. The value that we place on them should be equal to market value, retail value and then it’s assessed at 70 percent of that.
Q: Have you found that people who walk in or call you usually don’t fully understand the tax or assessing process?
Babon: Absolutely. That happens quite often. That’s where you have to take the time and explain to them and show them — sometimes people do better with pictures.
Q: What kinds of documents or visuals do you show taxpayers to better educate them on the process?
Babon: If they’re interested in knowing how many square feet their garage is, we tell them the measurements (off a computer program that shows property sketches). A lot of people have questions about the property record card which tells them, under construction detail, how many bedrooms, how many bathrooms, what kind of siding you have … I would recommend a lot of people to go online and check that out. It’s important as a homeowner, you really need to pay attention to what you’re getting in the mail and what you’re being taxed for. You have plenty of opportunity to appeal and you should take advantage of it if you feel it is necessary.
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