Inaccuracies Still Abound on St. John Property Revaluations

Since the 27th Legislature passed Governor John deJongh’s amended property tax bill at a special session on Thursday, February 7, St. John residents have been anxiously checking the V.I. Property Tax Revaluation Web site  for updated information — and not everyone is pleased with what they are finding.

Love City residents have been worried about property values since 2003 when the V.I. government was court-ordered to conduct a territory-wide revaluation and set tax rates according to real market values.

Residents Concerned
Government contractor Bearing Point is administering the revaluation and conducted assessments on every commercial and residential property throughout the territory. Following initial assessments on St. John, however, residents had concerns regarding the accuracy of information.

Bearing Point officials revisited many St. John homes and continue to complete a second revaluation.

While some of the updated information from the second assessment has appeared on the tax revaluation Web site, www.vipropertyrevaluation.com, many new revaluations have not been updated and even more still contain major errors, according to Coral Bay Community Council president Sharon Coldren.

Some Properties Show No Changes
“We’ve been receiving feedback from our members and what we’re hearing is that some values show no changes yet,” Coldren said. “Occasional properties have been updated but most of them have not. Essentially, they’ve started to do the updates, but they’ve only just started.”

While values for properties of more than one acre, which were previously unavailable, have finally appeared on the Web site, there is still information missing, Coldren explained.

“There are still some blanks on the Web site,” she said. “Even though some property owners submitted accurate information to data collectors, their values do not appear on the site.”

Worrying residents more than missing information are glaring inaccuracies which are still appearing on the Web site, according to Coldren.

Worrisome Anomalies
“There are anomalies going on here still,” she said. “Land values in Upper Carolina don’t seem to have changed much — they’re very high. And the land values in Calabash Boom don’t seem to have changed much either.”

While inaccurate information seems to be the case on each island, St. John values are the most skewed, Coldren added.

“There are under-valuation problems on St. Thomas that I am aware of as there are in parts of St. John and even St. Croix,” said the CBCC president. “That is as much of a problem as over-values, but obviously people are much more concerned about over-valuation and we still have patterns of that.”

“Extreme Inaccuracies”
“The problem is the extreme inaccuracies which we have in the current revaluation for St. John,” Coldren continued. “There are properties that are grossly wrong and some of these haven’t been changed and still show glaring inaccuracies.”

Since CBCC officials have not been provided details of Bearing Point’s computer model used to come up with property revaluation, they can’t pinpoint where the problems are arising.

“Since Bearing Point officials have not provided us with details of the computer model they are using — and we’ve requested it — we can’t tell if the problem is all data collection, or the model, or both,” said Coldren. “We’re sure the data collection is a problem and we’re extremely suspicious of the model.”

“But having no data to indicate otherwise, we will continue to point out the errors in the hopes that they will be corrected,” she added.

2006 Values Not Included Yet
The Bearing Point information still does not reflect important 2006 market values, Coldren explained.

“What we’re looking at here are values as of January 2006,” she said. “The year 2006 values have not been included across the board yet which is very important for what the values are going to be.”

Although Governor deJongh expressed hope to have property tax bills out by April, the revaluations must be complete and accurate before any billing starts, the CBCC president added.

“All the property revaluations need to be made public on the Web site and there needs to be time for public comment so that everything can be correct before they send out any tax bills,” said Coldren. “That is what the CBCC is working towards.”

While the second round of revaluations continues, CBCC officials are urging residents to check the property revaluation Web site regularly and share feedback with the organization.

“It’s my understanding from talking to the Tax Assessor’s Office that every Monday from now on updates will be posted,” said the CBCC president. “We’re urging people to look at the Web site on Mondays and continue to check for any updated information.”

CBCC Seeks Feedback
“We’d like people to contact the CBCC with their property information — was it updated, it is right now — and any other properties they  are aware of,” Coldren continued. “We’re asking people to share their feedback so we can work to make sure these revaluations are accurate.”

Residents can share feedback about their property revaluations with the CBCC by emailing the group at [email protected] Check out the group’s Web site at www.coralbaycommunitycouncil.org, for additional information.