Kenai Peninsula Borough assessors have again found it profitable to search systematically for unreported structures.
Jim Lawyer, director of assessing, said that between May 1999 and February 2000, assessors checked every parcel of land in the area stretching from the Moose River to Cooper Landing, Moose Pass, Seward and Hope, and every parcel in an area running from central Ninilchik to Cottonfield Road near Anchor Point.
They found $11 million in unreported structures -- homes, cabins, garages, shops and other buildings constructed before Jan. 1, 1999, but not listed in the 1999 tax roll.
"In an effort to provide equity among taxpayers, those structures that were omitted from the 1999 main assessment roll will be placed on the 1999 supplemental roll and sent a separate assessment notice on March 1," says a borough notice.
At the present 8-mill rate, adding the 560 unreported structures would boost the borough's general fund tax revenue by about $88,000. The borough assembly will set actual 2000 property tax rates later this year.
Lawyer said owners of unreported property are not necessarily trying to evade borough taxes. Many simply are unaware that additions such as shops and garages have not been added to the tax roll.
"They just got a tax bill for an $80,000 home and assumed it was right," he said. "Certainly some were trying to cheat, but a lot of them just didn't know. They weren't in compliance. We're putting them in compliance."
An assembly resolution requires Lawyer's department to reappraise each property every three years, he said, but until he was hired in 1997, there was no systematic effort to do that.
In 1998, Lawyer upped his staff from five full-time assessors to seven, hired two temporary workers and reappraised all real property in the Homer and Anchor Point areas. Working from aerial photographs overlaid with subdivision maps, assessors found 211 unreported structures worth $6.2 million.
In 1999, they reappraised the eastern peninsula and the area between Anchor Point and Ninilchik. This year, Lawyer said, he hopes to reappraise south Kachemak Bay and the area from Ninilchik to Soldotna, but that depends on how much work the assembly is willing to fund.
Altogether, reappraisals this year added nearly $95 million to the 2000 tax roll. In addition to the value of previously unreported structures, the increase includes values of new construction, additions and remodeling, plus adjustments for the condition of buildings, completion of partially built structures and other factors.
The preliminary 2000 taxable value of real property boroughwide is almost $2.9 billion, up roughly $187 million from last year. That total does not include the values of oil and gas exploration, production and transportation properties, which are calculated by the state. It does include the Nikiski chemical plants. However, Lawyer does not yet have the information to tell if their assessed values have changed from last year.
The $187 million gain includes $34 million from 416 newly built single-family homes and 180 newly built cabins and cottages. It also includes complicated adjustments to the values of existing structures, plus the value of new commercial construction, which Lawyer's computers cannot yet extract from the total.
The borough values existing homes based on recent sale prices for each style, with adjustments for size, quality, age and remodeling, Lawyer said. On the central peninsula, the average value for a ranch-style home rose from $64 per square foot in 1999 to $66 per square foot this year. On the central peninsula, the per-square-foot values for other styles did not change. Last year, though, average values of central peninsula homes rose by 3 to 4 percent.
In 1998, there were 630 single-family homes built boroughwide, the greatest annual total since 1985. For 1999, the total reported so far is just 416, but Lawyer expects that to rise after the borough mails 2000 assessment notices. After the notices went out last year, taxpayers reported roughly 250 new homes, garages and other structures.
Additional adjustments to the 2000 total will come after Lawyer has the information to update assessed values of the Nikiski chemical plants.
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