The tentative roll filed on May 1 finds that the total assessed value of non-commercial "homestead" properties fell from $1.256 billion as of July 1, 2008, (the valuation date used for the 2009 tax roll) to $1.22 billion as of July 1, 2009, a loss of about 2.8 percent. "Non-homestead" commercial properties fell from $570.8 million to $567 million during the same period, a drop of about 0.67 percent.
The new figures exclude tax-exempt properties. The numbers also show that between 2009 and 2010 the city dropped five residential properties from the tax rolls while losing another nine non-homestead parcels. Properties in the city enjoying tax-exempt status, meanwhile, declined from 63 in 2009 to 53 this year.
City Assessor Mary Ann Bahruth said this week that the new roll reflected a house-by-house reassessment by the city-contracted appraisal firm GAR Associates. According to Bahruth, the company used the house-by-house technique after last year's revaluation, which applied trends based on market data to entire neighborhoods, resulted in some assessments which were not in line with sales information.
Despite declines in the housing market, most properties in the city did not see their values changed. According to Bahruth, just 3,300 of 8,704 parcels on the tax rolls got a new figure.
"They had people look at every single house," said Bahruth. "Some didn't change, some had their assessments reduced and, in some cases they went up."
Among those who saw their assessment increased was Third Ward Alderman Charlie Landi, who faced scrutiny when it was revealed that a vacant lot on a paper street behind his home on Arlmont Street was assessed at just $1,100, while undeveloped lots on the same unpaved road were valued at $17,200 and $26,200. The assessment on Landi's property dropped from $11,250 to $1,100 in 2008 when Kingston carried out its first citywide revaluation in two decades. According to Bahruth, the drop was triggered by a code placed on the parcel listing back in 1988 during the previous revaluation to indicate that the 100-by-100-foot lot was not suitable for development. Baruth, who initially could not explain the discrepancy in the assessments, said that she had personally inspected the property and found that Landi's lot was, in fact, developable.
As a result, in the latest tax roll, the assessment on the lot jumped from $1,100 to $17,100. The neighboring parcel, which had been assessed at $26,200, meanwhile, was revalued at $13,400.
Landi has defended the low assessment on the grounds that the city had blocked access to Melrose Street from Hillsworth Avenue, the nearest paved street. The layout, he said, made his lot essentially landlocked and therefore not particularly valuable. This week, Landi said that he would not contest the new assessment for what he termed "political reasons."
"I should contest it, I think I would win, but for my constituents sake I'm not going to do that," said Landi. "I'm not a happy camper, but to quiet the issue down, I will not be contesting it."