Home News Local news Residents Seek Solutions for Development Problems

Residents Seek Solutions for Development Problems


Oct. 7, 2005 –– Under the property tax revaluation program currently under way, there will be no homestead, veterans and elderly exemptions as is currently allowed, Tax Assessor Roy Martin said at a town meeting on the "Perils of Rapid Development" held Friday by Sen. Craig Barshinger.
"The only exemption will be 100 percent exemption –– for EDC, non-profits and churches," Martin said.
About 40 people attended the meeting at the Westin Resort and Villas, but the number dwindled as the night wore on.
Martin said residential property revaluation is currently under way on St. Thomas and St. Croix and will begin on St. John early next year.
Sally Powers, who is the project manager for Bearing Point Consultants, said data collectors will measure properties and enter properties to calculate the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.
She said that commercial property values rose considerably on St. John after they were revalued. Commercial property owners have received statements telling them what increases to expect, but not the actual tax bills.
Bearing Point is overseeing the revaluation project.
After several people spoke about the infrastructure woes plaguing St. John, former Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Alan Smith said the department "got it wrong" under his tenure when it failed to plan for the future.
"I hope the horse isn't too far out of the barn," he said.
Smith served as Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner from 1987 to 1991.
Smith pointed out that the island's rapid growth started after Hurricane Marilyn hit in 1995.
He said that fixing the infrastructure will be a monumental task.
He said that a way to get diverse groups of people to live next to each other needs to be developed.
"If you do a subdivision, do X number of affordable units," he suggested.
He also pointed out that the current transfer tax of 2.5 percent does nothing to discourage flipping of real estate.
Smith said that the transfer tax could be changed locally so it benefits the community.
And he wondered if the Economic Development Commission program has benefitted the territory. The program provides tax breaks for companies that locate in the Virgin Islands, but also essentially forces the owner to buy a house to meet residency requirements. Some people believe that this has caused property values to rise.
Terry Conklin said that the territory has no comprehensive tax policy.
"The Legislature has never done the job. It's time to move forward and get the job done," he said
Barshinger said he's working on legislation to tax only improvements on property, not the property itself. He suggested, if that's not feasible, land could be taxed at a lower rate than improvements.
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