Islanders react to property revaluations
By Eileen M. Daly
Island property owners have received their property revaluations and Jamestown Tax Assessor Ken Gray is breathing a sigh of relief.
This year’s revaluation process has gone pretty well so far, Gray said, with 130 requests for appeals received as of last Friday.
“That’s a pretty low number in general. Some revaluations can lead to hundreds and hundreds, even thousands, of appeals,” he said.
Local reactions have been varied and reflect everything from acceptance to questions about fairness.
Tim Baker, owner of Baker’s Pharmacy – who owns both a personal residence, as well as a professional building on the island – expressed good-natured acceptance.
“Jamestown is a unique place and I don’t think property values went down as much here as they might have in other places. The value of my building did go up quite a bit, but I did some work on it,” he said. “Overall, I think the re-appraisal was fair and I’m okay with it as long as the tax rates stay as low as they are. And the town really works at that. I think we have the lowest rate per thousand in the state.”
Gary Girard, on the other hand – while being careful to point out that he has “no ax to grind with anyone” – did have some questions regarding the burden placed on waterfront property owners.
“Property values have gone down due to the economy, though probably less here in Jamestown than in some other places. And I understand that waterfront property holds its value, but if most properties have gone down and we’ve gone up, then I’m not sure the burden is fair,” Girard said.
According to Gray, there are two types of property revaluation processes: statistical revaluations – conducted every three years – and full revaluations – conducted every nine years.
This year’s revaluation process is a statistical revaluation, Gray said.
“Statistical revaluations look at sales in the last two to three quarters and apply those new values to properties. Appraisers conducting statistical revaluations will drive by properties, but they do not need to enter,” he said.
Full appraisals, on the other hand, require appraisers to enter the building, take measurements and note any changes, such as increased size or the addition of bathrooms that have an impact on the value.
Girard said that when property values decrease, the resultant decrease in tax revenues has to be “made up for somehow.”
Girard said he would like to be assured that waterfront property owners are not being asked to shoulder an unfair portion of that burden.
The equal distribution of the tax burden is exactly what Gray says his office is all about.
“We want to make sure that everyone is being treated equally,” he said. In fact, anyone who has any concern about the fairness of his or her revaluation should file an appeal, he said.
At the end of last week, the appeal process was still in the first stage.
“Everyone received notification of the April 9 deadline to file an appeal with Vision Appraisal,” he said.
According to Gray, dissatisfied property owners may seek recourse at four different levels.
Property owners who are not satisfied with the outcome of the Vision Appraisal appeal may then file an appeal with his office, Gray said. The appeals forms for that level of the process can be found on the town website under the tax office drop-down menu, he said.
“If I don’t satisfy them, I will pass it on to the Board of Review if they’d like me to. The board usually meets in the fall,” he said. “Finally, if they are still unsatisfi ed, they can appeal to Superior Court.”
The first thing that Gray recommends to anyone dissatisfied with their appraisal is that they go to the Vision Appraisal website at www. visionappraisal.com and look up their property to make sure there are no mistakes in square footage, number of bathrooms, etc.
“Then, look up similar properties in the neighborhood and compare assessments. Or, if a property is assessed at a certain market value, but a similar house recently sold for a lot less, that would make a difference,” Gray said. “Our goal is to treat everyone equally, but it is really helpful if people can show us evidence to back up their claims.”