2010-03-25 / News

Revaluation disputes should be lodged by April 9

By Phil Zahodiakin

Jamestown property owners who disagree with their latest property assessments should take the first step in the appeals process by April 9.

The importance of timely requests for hearings was arguably the most important message to emerge from the property revaluation workshop held on March 18.

Turn-out at the meeting totaled 10 people, including Town Council member Ellen Winsor and several members of the Taxpayers’ Association of Jamestown.

The meeting was hosted by Stephen Ferreira, who led the statistical revaluation for Vision Appraisal, and Jamestown Tax Assessor Ken Gray.

Ferreira didn’t reveal any reassessment numbers, but he said that the value of 65 to 75% of Jamestown properties would be below their 2006 assessments.

Conversely, the valuations for 20 to 25% of Jamestown properties will increase. The net result for the town will be a decrease in its total value – although the amount of the drop won’t be precisely known for quite some time.

Town Finance Director Tina Collins told the Press that as of Dec. 31, 2008, the town’s total value was $2,132,947,552 – a number that reflects property changes (such as additions and demolitions) since the previous statistical appraisal in 2006.

The total valuation also includes such “personal property” as commercial assets owned by businesses – but it doesn’t include motor vehicles.

The decline in 2009 real estate values won’t be final until all the dust from the recent appraisals settles – meaning, until all the appeals have been heard and resolved one way or the other.

That won’t happen until the end of the year – or even later in the event that one or more disputes are taken to Superior Court. But for now, “we want people to know that the revaluations will be mailed on the 29th, and that the webpage [with all the Jamestown data] will be up and running by the close of business” on that day, Ferreira told the Press.

He added that the informal Vision Appraisal hearings to discuss any apparent factual errors “will start in early April, and people will have until the ninth of April to call and make that appointment” for a hearing.

The Vision Appraisal Web address and the toll-free number to call for appointments will be included in the revaluation notice, Ferreira said at the meeting, adding that the hearings will be held at Town Hall.

He told the Press that, “Typically, 10 to 15% of the property owners appeal their revaluations. But these aren’t ‘typical times,’ so it’s anybody’s guess what response we’ll get.”

Ferreira said that the most common reason for an appeal is the difference in revaluations among similar, or substantially identical, properties. He added that property owners with half the land of a similar property sometimes argue that their valuations should have just half the value of the similar property.

The value of the smaller property, Ferreira said at the meeting, will be less – but not necessarily 50% less because “we look at the ‘best and highest use’ of the land. That’s the basis of its value.”

Jamestown has 2,696 residential properties, 85 condominium units, 33 mixed-use properties, seven apartment buildings, 69 commercial properties with structures on the lots and five vacant commercial properties.

The island also has 294 properties exempt from property taxes, Gray told the Press, noting that the exempted properties include those owned by the town, the state, the federal government and the Conanicut Island Land Trust.

The effects of the revaluation on property taxes will remain elusive until the town sets its fiscal year 2010-11 budget, which won’t happen until the Financial Town Meeting in June.

However, as Ferreira said at the meeting, most property owners can expect a “wash” because any increase in the property tax rate to compensate for the decline in total town value will be offset by the decline in the values for most island properties.

Conversely, people whose property values increase will probably see their tax bills increase – even if the budget remains flat – because their properties will represent a greater percentage of the total tax base than they represented after the 2006 revaluation.

During the meeting, Ferreira said that “high end,” waterfront” and “water-influenced” properties will hold, or increase, in value – while most of the moderately priced housing will decline.

Jamestown’s Top 10 Parcel Valuations

366 East Shore Rd. 6,800,300
1185 North Main Rd. 6,019,100
150 Bay View Drive 5,476,500
368 East Shore Rd. 4,544,400
609 Beavertail Rd. 4,537,300
150 Conanicus Ave. 4,462,100
716 East Shore Rd. 4,434,100
90 Battery Lane 4,429,200
10 High St. 4,332,200
444 Beavertail Rd. 4,244,200
Source: Jamestown Tax Assessor’s Office

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