I read the Source article regarding Tax Assessor Roy Martin's presentation at the Rotary Club of St. John with a great deal of interest. While I applaud the fact that there has finally been some movement in restructuring our property tax system, I have to say that I am appalled at the direction which this effort has taken.
Mr. Martin has stated that the proposed property tax restructuring will focus on providing a different tax rate for each island. While I have a great deal of personal and professional respect for Mr. Martin, I must disagree vehemently with this approach.
It will cause the disenfranchisement of our people in St. John and carry that disenfranchisement over to Water Island. It will also serve to devalue property values on the island of St. Croix, thus denying the residents access to their greatest economic tool the equity and market value of their homes.
Additionally, this proposed system will force our people to leave St. John because they would not be able to pay their property taxes. Is this what we want? Are we really considering a property tax system which will drive our people off their land? Even with land being set aside on Water Island for moderate-housing, if this property tax system is put in place, we will never be able to have our people live there. In essence, this proposed system sets up economic segregation by making it impossible for person to live on certain islands. I don't think this is what we want.
Rather than pre-determine the property tax values based on island, it is so much more practical to set a sliding scale based upon the actual market value of the individual property. In this way, the persons who have impacted the environment and community by building massive structures will pay their fair share, while those persons who are living in modest homes will remain unaffected, yet still pay their fair share.
Why should a $2 million dollar home on St. Croix be taxed at a lower rate than a $2 million dollar home on St. John? Isn't the dollar value the same? Should the modest homeowner on St. Croix or St. John be penalized because they happen to have a wealthy neighbor? A sliding scale based upon the market value of a home would ensure that it would be fair, as opposed to paying more or having your property devalued basely solely upon which island you reside upon.
There must be equity in our property tax system. The only way to build this system is for each member of our community to carry their fair tax burden.
Again, the property tax system should have a sliding scale in which those persons whose homes and building are worth more are taxed accordingly. It's the only fair thing to do. If the real estate industry can assess fair market value, then so can our government. Let's do the right thing here.
Emmett Hansen II
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