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Assessor Planning New Appraisals For 2010 Property Tax Bills

With court battles settled, the Office of the Tax Assessor intends to issue 2010 property tax bills at 2010 market values after new appraisals, Raymond Williams, chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis, said during budget hearing Thursday in Frederiksted.

The Office of the Lieutenant Governor oversees eight separate government subdivisions, five of which generate revenue for the government:

Office of the Tax Assessor, assessing land values and maintaining cadastral land maps;

• Banking and Insurance;

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• Recorder of Deeds;

• Trademarks and Corporations; and

• V.I. Passport Acceptance Facility.

After years of delays due to litigation, the Tax Assessor’s Office issued 2007 property tax bills in February, the 2008 bills in July and will issue the 2009 bills in Janary 2012, all at 1998 assessments, Williams said.

For 2010 property tax, the office is preparing a request for proposals for an updated mass appraisal. The appraisal will not require much new data collection, he said.

Meanwhile, after several years of decreasing revenues across most of its divisions, collections are expected to be up this year, fueled by a jump in property tax collections, said Delbert Hewitt, chief of operations for the Office of the Lieutenant Governor.

Actual collections were $64.8 million in fiscal 2008; $62.9 million in 2009 and $59.9 million in 2010. While some divisions saw slight increases, property tax collection dropped from $30.2 million in 2009 to $25.9 million in 2010, he said.

Through July 15 of this fiscal year, the office collected $66.6 million – a 159-percent increase from $25.7 million last year. Real property taxes account for the entire increase, with $56.3 million collected thus far, versus $14.3 million by the same time last year. By the end of fiscal 2011, the office expects to collect $79.4 million in property taxes, and to collect $95.5 million in 2012.

The staff was before the Finance Committee to discuss the Lieutenant Governor’s Office 2012 general fund budget appropriation of $7 million, $925,000 or 12 percent less than last year. Salaries and wages account for $4.7 million, with employer contributions for Social Security, Medicare and health and retirement benefits taking another $1.9 million, taking up a combined 93 percent of the general fund budget.

The office also expects $1 million from the Tax Assessors Revolving Fund, coming for one percent of property tax revenue. This year, that funding would mostly be used to carry out the biennial property tax assessment this year, said Hewitt.

The Recorder of Deeds revolving fund is expected to contribute another $200,000.

The Commissioner of Insurance Administrative Fund should have $3 million from licensing fees; the Financial Services Revolving Fund $3.7 million and the Corporation Revolving Fund $275,000.

Office space rental for 2012 is estimated at $983,000, but only $250,000 is currently budgeted, and "the balance of the funding will have to be sustained from other local funds," Hewitt said.

Utilities are expected to be $71,000 or one percent of the budget.

No votes were taken at the information gathering hearing.

Committee members present were: O’Reilly, Millin-Young, Chairman Carlton "Ital" Dowe and Sen. Sammuel Sanes. Absent were Sens. Louis Hill, Shawn-Michael Malone, and Celestino White Sr.

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