Home News Local news Property Tax Valuation to Undergo Major Revamp

Property Tax Valuation to Undergo Major Revamp


Dec. 14, 2004 — Beginning in March 2005, V.I. residents can expect to see individuals roaming their properties, inspecting, measuring and questioning them about their last renovations. These data collectors will be gathering information to ascertain the value of each property in the territory.
In May of 2003, the U.S. District Court ordered the V.I. government to update its property tax values in response to several appeal cases before it by disgruntled property owners. In keeping with the court order, the Office of the Tax Assessor implemented a program to update and revalue all property in the territory in hopes of achieving and maintaining tax equity. A contractor, Bearing Point Inc., was hired to help the government with this project.
The first phase of V.I. Property Revaluation, as the program is called, began in September of this year and focused on commercial and industrial properties. The revaluation of residential properties will begin in March. The project is expected to take two years to complete.
Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards conducted an open house at the new offices for the staff of the revaluation project Tuesday evening in the Builder's Emporium Building across from the Office of the Tax Assessor. Richards and his staff explained to those in attendance how the revaluation of properties would be done.
Sally Powers, resident manager, told the group that properties would be assessed based on two main factors: description of the properties from the data collectors and the market value, which is the most likely price that a property could be sold for.
To augment Bearing Point's staff, data collectors from the Tax Assessor's office are being used. Thirty temporary data collectors were also hired.
In response to questions by audience members, Richards said all properties would be revalued, including the properties of individuals who are currently appealing their tax bills. Tax Assessor Roy Martin could not give the total number of individuals that had filed appeals with the court.
"Right now we are trying to ascertain the number of appeals," Martin said.
Martin said individuals whose property value had been overestimated in determining their taxes will be given tax credits. Richards also added that he "assumes" the tax credits would also apply to people whose properties are devalued in the revaluation process.
Currently, properties are being taxed at 1.25 percent of 60 percent of the fair market value. This means that a property valued at $100,000 is taxed 1.25 percent of $60,000, which would translate to a tax bill of $750.
"The commercial bills for 2005 will reflect the new values," Powers said, adding that the residential bills would reflect the change in 2006. Powers said reassessments would be done every two years for commercial and industrial properties, and every five years for residential properties — as is the current practice.
St. John property owner Wilma Marsh Monsanto asked if vacant lots, particularly on St. John, would be based on market value. Powers said yes.
"Indigenous St. Johnians cannot afford to own their lands anymore because of the taxes," Monsanto said, adding that a half-acre of land now sells for $500,000 or more in St. John and this is what will be used to revalue people's property.
"Not everyone is building to sell," Monsanto said. "To me that's a great disadvantage to individuals who have sacrificed all of their lives to own their properties."

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