Borough contracts for reassessment of all property in town

The borough followed through on discussions from earlier this summer and the assembly last week approved a contract for reassessment of the value of all commercial and residential properties in the community.

The intent is not to raise revenue — that is determined by the property tax rate the assembly sets every spring as part of the budget process. The reassessment is to ensure that valuations are “equitable across the board,” explained Borough Manager Jeff Good.

After the assembly adopts its annual budget, it considers available revenues, such as federal and state funding and estimated sales tax receipts, and sets the property tax rate to balance the spending plan. The tax rate is multiplied against the assessed value of each property.

Inconsistent assessments over the years have created unfair situations, where similar properties, even neighboring properties, “could have extremely different values,” Good said in an interview last Wednesday.

The boroughwide review will include residential and commercial buildings, and undeveloped parcels.

Past intent had been to review one-third of all the properties in town every three years, so that no valuation was more than three years old, the manager said. But, in practice, some properties, particularly some industrial sites, had not been reassessed in 20 years.

The borough assembly on Aug. 23 approved a $48,000 contract with Anchorage-based Appraisal Company of Alaska to review and assess all properties in Wrangell “at their full and true fair market value” as required by state law.

“The appraiser will complete all building inspections not previously inspected and the appraiser will revalue all real property,” the company said in its proposal to the borough.

“I’m glad we’re doing this catch-up,” Assemblymember Jim DeBord said Aug. 23.

“This includes revaluation of every single property within the borough,” staff reported to the assembly.

The work is scheduled to start in September, “and this process usually takes a couple of months, with values finalized by the end of the year or early January,” staff reported. “Fieldwork will be conducted in October/November, during which the assessor will meet with the assembly to explain the value changes, on average how much property values will change, and the real estate market overview.”

“We want it well in advance, so that we can see it through the process,” Good said. Borough staff will monitor the assessor’s work to ensure consistency and completeness, he told the assembly.

The assessor’s work will include a mix of on-site visits of properties and reviews of files, property descriptions and past assessments.

Assessment notices will be mailed at the end of March, allowing owners time to challenge the valuations before tax notices are sent out.

Aside from any changes in property valuations, the borough next year will send out a different assessment notice for each property, a change from current practice of sending a single, combined notice to an owner of multiple properties.

The assembly also approved an $8,600 add-on to the contract for Appraisal Company of Alaska to scan — turn into digital files — all property tax records, which will make it easier for staff, and property owners, to review the public information.


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