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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, July 13, 2024


Aggrieved property owners on St. John got one firm commitment from a Tuesday night hearing about property tax. After an hour of prodding by the head of the Senate Finance Committee, the chief tax assessor agreed to one-on-one meetings with taxpayers Aug. 4.
"I would recommend to anyone in the audience who has concerns, please make it a point to go and visit the tax assessor Aug. 4 between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. before you go on with the other step, which is the appeal process," said committee Chairwoman Lorraine Berry.
More than half a dozen St. Johnians testified at the hearing at the Legislative Conference Room in Cruz Bay. Some described their lengthy attempts to resolve skyrocketing property tax bills.
Others in the audience muttered angrily as they heard tax assessor Roy Martin tell lawmakers that each property on St. John had been individually assessed before the recently issued tax bills were sent out.
Both Berry and Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole told Martin they had received letters from St. Johnians saying they knew they were never visited by a property assessor because they were either retired or homemakers and would have been aware of any visit.
Berry called the hearing at the request of Sen.-at-Large Almando "Rocky" Liburd, who was concerned that St. John residents received 10 percent property tax increases while St. Thomians received 6 percent and St. Croix residents received 5 percent increments.
One resident, Ed Birmingham, told committee members he had bought a parcel of land for $70,000 cash two years ago. When he returned from an off-island trip Monday night he saw his 1999 tax bill.
"Today it’s assessed for between $125,000 and $130,000," he said.
Deborah Charles said she divided a parcel in 1994 and saw the value on one-half acre jump from $87,000 to $116,000 since 1995 with no improvements made on the land.
Charles said she began trying to straighten out the bill in August 1999 and so far had received only verbal promises from the tax assessor that he would "get back to her."
Birmingham said he not only planned to appeal but also to distribute copies of the tax assessor’s appeals form to every property tax owner whose name and address he could obtain.
"As an individual I’ve looked into it," Birmingham said. "There is an appeals process. I intend to participate in it … Sometime in the next few weeks we will mail to every individual here a copy of the form they must file. We hope that the tax office will be flooded with appeals."

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