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Property Taxes Must Be Acceptable

Dear Source:

As the Governor closed his press conference on the proposed property tax bill Tuesday, he is reported to have said "It is very likely that this experience will show us how to improve it in the future."
That is certainly true. This bill needs a lot of improvement. But that should happen before it is passed, not correcting mistakes over the next months and years, after some of our territory’s residents have been forced to pay taxes they and their families can’t afford.
No property owner in the territory right now can evaluate exactly what they will pay under the proposed law, because no actual revaluation information has been released for 2006!
No homeowners have seen their actual 2006 revaluations yet. Commercial property owners have only seen their 2004 valuations. The corrections that will shortly be placed on the Tax Assessor’s website will still not be updated to include the adjustments to values for 2006 property sales. The impact statements received last summer, by some of us, only included values through 2005. 2006 sales values still need to be added into the model and all the valuations adjusted.
The revaluation process should not be considered complete until the true valuations – for the tax bills – become public knowledge and are acceptable. The people of St. John and some other neighborhoods in the territory are very concerned that the technical aspects of the data collection and modeling are still insufficient to create valid, fair bills. Rushing to issue actual tax bills based on this potentially flawed data — is asking for legal trouble, and embarrassment.
I genuinely hope I am wrong, and that when we see the final 2006 values, we will all be able say they are properly and fairly established and represent actual market values, which for many properties on St. John, they currently do not. But from all that I know, I greatly fear that it will take more effort, which if not done voluntarily by the government, without time pressure, will simply lead to another lengthy lawsuit, and no progress on developing a good property tax base – a very desirable goal.
We are standing up for our neighbors and our community — pleading with the Governor and the Senate that we move cautiously into this property tax area. Heed the experiences of other places. Let’s improve this before we make mistakes, not afterward.
Thank you for considering these points and waiting until the complete revaluation is reviewed by the public and all the property owners, before determining the tax structure and rates that we will pay.
Sharon Coldren
St. John

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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