Oct. 7, 2005 — Rotarians got some answers to questions about the upcoming home revaluation from V.I. Tax Assessor's Office staff members at a recent meeting. With home assessments being conducted on St. Croix, the question everyone is asking is: Are my property taxes going to increase?
"The meeting clarified some questions I had about the revaluation," Realtor Regine Fitzer, said. Although Fitzer said the meeting shed a lot of light on the subject, her conclusion about the effect the reevaluation would have on homeowners was not so good.
"People who have their home for a long time and where improvements have been made will see an increase," she predicted.
Fitzer's comments came after Rotary St. Croix met at their regularly scheduled meeting at Gertrude's Restaurant on Thursday. The guest speakers were staff of the Tax Assessor's office and representatives of Bearing Point Consultants. The subject was the ongoing recalculation of residential properties on St. Croix.
Jett Summersgill, revaluation supervisor for Bering Point, the company contracted by the V.I. government to conduct the survey, declined to say whether individual's property taxes would rise after the team finishes its work. "I can't tell you that until all the data is collected and analyzed," he said. However he did say that in the final analysis, St. Croix would fare better than St. Thomas and St. John where property costs have skyrocketed.
Summersgill was joined by Nina Boston, tax assessor field supervisor, and other staff from the local office.
Summersgill said a team of about 25 data collectors are presently on St. Croix going door to door to collect residential property information on all of the 66,000 residential properties on all three islands. They will be gathering information such as the year the home was built, number of bedrooms, bathrooms and half baths and number of rooms excluding bathrooms, if the home has central air-conditioning, if it has a finished or unfinished basement.
The push for revaluations came about because the Virgin Islands government was ordered by the U.S. District Court in May 2003 to change the way it calculates property taxes. Previously land was taxed based on market value, but improvements the buildings – were taxed based on replacement cost. The two were combined to create one tax bill. Now both improvements and land will be taxed based on actual market value.
This change came as a result of a suit filed by St. Thomas business owners who challenged what they saw as unfair assessments of commercial properties. Information gathered during the revaluation will be used to calculate 2005 property taxes. Bills will go out in June 2006.
The survey and revaluation on commercial property were completed in May. Summersgill said his company has been working on this project for 15 months.
Several Rotarians posed questions to the guest speakers. Most were concerned that the taxes of modest homes would rise because larger and more expensive homes have been built in the vicinity.
Benjamin Rivera, St. Croix Chamber of Commerce executive director, was concerned that the assessment includes improvements to the interior to the home. "I'm not an expert in this," Rivera said, noting that the increased availability to home improvement products, and having Home Depot in the territory, has allowed many Virgin Islanders to make improvements to their property.
Summersgill said that when the data collectors come to your house, you don't have to let them come into the house. You can just answer the questions to get the current market value. However, he said, in order to get an accurate assessment, data collectors need to get a look inside the house. Collectors will use the land deeds located in the Public Works Department to get the land value part of the survey.
Summersgill said that if a homeowner thinks the final value placed on the home is incorrect you can call the tax assessors office and discuss it.
Property owners who want to verify the data collector's identity should call the Tax Assessor's office at 776-2859 on St. Thomas or on St. Croix at 773-6449, ext. 3118.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.