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Homeowners Brace for Bills

Real-estate assessments jump significantly.

The letter is in the mail, and chances are, property owners will pay more real-estate taxes this year.

Assessments will be mailed on Friday, Feb. 14. Overall assessed value of real property increased 19.93 percent, or $3.22 billion, from $16.13 billion in 2002 to $19.35 billion this year. Approximately 15.7 percent of this $3.22 billion increase, or $505.8 million, is the result of new construction. The remaining 84.3 percent, or $2.71 billion, is the result of appreciation.

"This overall increase reflects the health of the Alexandria economy and the continued demand for both rental and owner-occupied housing in the city and other urban jurisdictions close to the District of Columbia," said City Manager Philip G. Sunderland.

Residential property assessments (single family homes and condominiums), including both new construction and appreciation, increased $2.27 billion or 70.5 percent of the total tax base increase. Assessments of commercial property, which includes apartment complexes and public service corporation property, reflecting both new construction and appreciation, increased $949.2 million, or 29.5 percent of the total tax base increase.

THE OVERALL VALUE of the city's residential real property tax base increased by 25.49 percent. New construction accounted for 4 percent of this increase, while appreciation accounted for 96 percent. Residential real property represents 57.7 percent of the total real property tax base, up from 54.9 percent in 2002.

The average assessed value of a residential home (single-family and condominium) increased 24.48 percent from $248,133 to $308,876. The average assessed value for a single-family home as of Jan. 1, 2003, is $409,613, increasing 22 percent from last year. The average assessed value for a residential condominium as of Jan. 1, 2003, is $177,079, up by 31 percent.

"This just further indicates that we need to do more to provide affordable housing," said Councilwoman Joyce Woodson.

The overall value of the city's commercial property tax base increased by 14.13 percent, from $6.58 billion to $7.51 billion. New construction accounted for 44.8 percent of this increase. Appreciation accounted for 55.2 percent. Most of the new commercial construction is related to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) project. The commercial tax base represents 38.8 percent of the total real property tax base, down from 41.4 percent in 2002.

"We will obviously continue to see the benefits of the PTO development," said Mayor Kerry J. Donley. "Both as the property is developed and as the buildings are occupied and those people spend money in the city."

Donley was not surprised by the increase in the value of residential property. "First, we are pretty much in line with our neighboring jurisdictions of Arlington and Fairfax counties," he said. "I am pleased to see the value of condominiums increasing after we had seen some decline for several years.

"I think it is very clear that people want to live in Alexandria both because of our proximity to Washington and because of our quality of life," he said.

RESIDENTIAL condominiums in the Parkfairfax, North Ridge, Rosemont and Del Ray neighborhoods increased an average of 44 percent. In Old Town, the average increases in assessed value were smaller, approximately 19.5 percent. The appreciation of single-family homes ranged from an average of 18.5 percent in North Old Town and much of the city's west end, to 30.7 percent in Rosemont and Del Ray.

"From one perspective, this is good news for the city because it will help us make up the additional revenue cuts we are taking from the state," said Councilwoman Claire Eberwein. "I believe it also represents an opportunity to provide tax relief to our residential property owners again this year. With a prudent budget, we may be able to forgo cuts to current programs that we were concerned about given the national economy."

More detailed information about this year's real property assessments is available on the city's Web site at ci.alexandria.va.us. City Council will hold a public hearing on the report on Feb. 22.