Many St. John residents were shocked to open their property value notices from the Lieutenant Governor’s office which arrived in the mail over the past few weeks.
While all commercial and residential properties throughout the Virgin Islands were revaluated by government-contracted BearingPoint, Love City stands to be the most affected by far.
Sally Powers, BearingPoint team leader, explained how the property revaluations were conducted at the St. John Rotary meeting on Friday afternoon, August 3, at the Westin Resort and Villas.
While territory-wide residential values rose about 85 percent, St. John residents are sure to see much higher increases.
Property Values Skyrocket on St. John
Some residents reported increas-ed values of up to 1,000 percent.
One resident’s Estate Bordeaux property rose in value from $49,000 to $645,000.
The skyrocketing values are not surprising, Powers explained.
“The most difficult thing is thinking in terms of market values when residents’ last bill was from 1998,” said Powers.
The residential values took two years to revaluate with workers visiting every home, condominium and vacant lot throughout the territory.
For vacant lots the land value was based on comparable land sales from 2003 through 2005 — some of the highest ever recorded on St. John. For home values additional information regarding what the cost would be to replace the structure with a similar one was also examined, Powers explained.
After installing new software and combining information from the old tax system, BearingPoint sent data collectors into the field to measure the square footage of houses. For vacant lots, information from deeds and sales was used as well, Powers added.
“All of that information was analyzed by a statistician specialized in tax valuations,” Powers said.
Location, Location, Location
The most important aspect of setting values hinged on location, Powers added.
“We didn’t deal island by island but we looked at patterns within each island and used a Geographic Information System too,” she said.
Some estates on island were used as separate neighborhoods, while others were either combined or divided, Powers explained.
A model was then applied to houses and vacant land sites with separate analysis conducted for condominiums, Powers explained.
With the data collection phase complete and adjustments applied, property values were mailed out over the past few weeks. Now V.I. Property Revaluation personnel are handling concerned residents’ questions and trying to clear up confusion.
Check for Errors
Many residents have noticed errors in their revaluations, so each notice should be carefully checked.
“Residents should bring information to us and get information from us,” said Powers. “Before these values are set in stone, we’re hoping to get more information.”
V.I. Property Revaluation officials will be dedicated to fielding questions and concerns until August 17.
“We won’t cut off anything then, but after that we must move to the next phase and likely conduct re-inspections of many properties,” Powers said.
Although U.S. Congress repealed 1936 federal law governing property taxes — allowing the local legislature to set its own tax rates — many residents remained skeptical of the revaluations.
No Trust in Legislature
“After the legislature said Sirenusa could do whatever they wanted to do, I don’t trust them to do something about this,” said one resident at the Rotary meeting. “I know it’s different, but I don’t trust them. I just don’t trust the government.”
Anyone with questions is urged to call the V.I. Property Revaluation office at the Lt. Governor’s office at 776-2859, or stop by the St. John Tax Assessor’s office at the Cruz Bay Battery on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Revaluation personnel will be available to meet with property owners through August 17.