Assessments up slightly

Published 10:43 pm Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The average Suffolk homeowner will pay slightly more on his tax bill in the coming year, as assessments in the city edged up 1.7 percent, but may avoid an increase in the tax rate.

City Assessor Jean Jackson told City Council during Wednesday’s work session her department made the findings after considering about 889 arm’s-length land transactions made in the city in 2013.

Later, during the meeting, City Council voted unanimously to direct the city manager to prepare a budget that does not include an increase in the city’s “mill rate” on real estate, which currently stands at $1.03 per $100 of assessed value.

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More than 1,500 land transactions were not considered in the assessment process. They included 346 foreclosures — level from last year — and 71 sales in lieu of foreclosure, more than double last year’s total of 31.

The rise in assessments comes after five straight years of declines that ranged from 1 percent in 2009 to 4 percent in 2010.

The numbers include new construction, so the average rise in assessments for parcels already on the books last year would be less than 1.7 percent. A breakdown of assessment changes by neighborhood will not be available until next month, Jackson added.

She did note increases of 9 percent in the Downtown Business Overlay District, likely due to demolitions and renovations ongoing there, and 6.1 percent in the Route 17 district.

Good news for residents is that single-family homes continue to decrease as a percentage of the total assessed value. Commercial properties and multi-family housing such as apartment buildings are making up the difference.

Taxpayers should receive their new assessment notices in the mail by mid-March, and hearings by the Board of Equalization, which considers contested assessments, will take place in May.

The original motion to prepare a budget that included no tax or fee increases was made by Councilman Charles Parr. Councilman Mike Duman later amended it to remove the provision against fee increases, as some fees must remain self-sustaining.

“I am hearing there is no taste on this dais for a tax increase,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said after others, including Councilman Roger Fawcett, said they would not vote for a budget that included a tax increase.