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St. John Residents Shocked at Rates Used for Revaluation

Aug. 14, 2007 – St. John residents were shocked Monday to learn that St. John's base rate for houses stands at $360 per square foot as opposed to $93 a square foot on St. Thomas and $89 a square foot on St. Croix.
"That's a real injustice," St. John Administrator Leona Smith said at a revaluation workshop held at the Donkey Diner Monday evening.
St. John land is valued at a base rate of $25.12 a square foot, while St. Thomas' is $7.41 a square foot and St. Croix's, $2.78 a square foot.
Coral Bay Community Council President Sharon Coldren, who organized the workshop, said the numbers came from Bearing Point. The company was hired by the local government to revalue properties across the territory.
The figures are based on sales from the years 2003 through 2005. Coldren said that on St. John, most of the sales in those years were high-end vacation homes. She said that on the other two islands, sales included a wide range of homes that included high-end homes but also those for "ordinary people."
"They've completely skewed what's going on with St. John," she said, holding up a chart supplied by Bearing Point.
Coldren had some other tidbits to share from the Bearing Point information, including information that basements include everything under the first story that's on a hillside. The larger the building, the lower the per square foot rate. And a dirt road reduces the value.
She said that those details didn't matter when the square footage price was so high.
Richard Traina complained that he had neighbors with similar houses who received revaluation values about half of his.
When Coldren urged those at the meeting to contact the Tax Assessor's Office to complain about their valuation, Traina said he didn’t want to bring his neighbor's situation to their attention.
"What's fair is fair," countered resident Sharon McKee.
Coldren said that she's sure the way taxes are applied will be changed so residents are not forced out of their homes.
"We don't have anything to fret about yet," she said.
Bonny Corbeil said that once again, St. John was being "royally screwed." She said the senators think that St. John can carry a bigger burden than other islands.
"We do not have a voice on St. John," she said.
Those at the meeting discussed filing a law suit against the government for what they see as unfair treatment, but decided to wait to see what happens.

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