Area cities' property values dip

January 3, 2010
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Editor's note: This is the first installment of a series of stories reviewing the impact of a sharp reduction in state equalized taxable value on the tax coffers of local municipalities.

Even though the state equalized taxable value for all properties in Kent County is falling by 4 percent this year — a relatively large and historic drop — the downward tumble for many of the county's nine cities will be even steeper.

And property-tax revenue for those cities, and for Kent County and the townships, will be down from last year's collections.

The total taxable value for commercial, industrial and residential properties in Kentwood, Wyoming, Walker, Grand Rapids, Grandville, Cedar Springs, Rockford, East Grand Rapids and Lowell is down a collective 5.34 percent. Residential values alone in those cities are off by even more, at 5.94 percent.

Taxable values didn't fall quite as far for the county's 21 townships. The overall SEV in those communities is down by 4.85 percent. That drop, though, was cushioned somewhat by a rising SEV for agricultural properties, which grew by 1.19 percent.

Kentwood was the city that saw its overall taxable values decline the most from 2009 by a total of 8.95 percent, a fall that was led by a 10.23 percent plummet in residential values. Kentwood also led the cities in declining values for commercial and industrial properties.

Wyoming was next with an SEV drop of 6.21 percent for all properties; it also was second in the residential class, with housing values dropping by 7 percent.

Total taxable value declines were higher than the countywide average in Walker, Grand Rapids and Grandville. Cedar Springs matched the overall average 4 percent decline and also recorded the only gain by a city; its industrial SEV inched up by nearly four-tenths of a percent.

Rockford, East Grand Rapids and Lowell saw taxable values fall by less than 4 percent, with Lowell registering the lowest all-property drop of just 1.1 percent.

None of the county's 30 municipalities saw the residential SEV rise. Four townships had double-digit housing declines, led by Grattan Township's 11.72 percent taxable drop.

County Equalization Director Matt Woolford said he doesn't see those figures changing much between now and the mailing of property-tax bills next summer. But appeals will be held this month and in February throughout the county.

The drop in values is due to the ongoing recession, home foreclosures, lower housing prices and more vacancies in the commercial and industrial markets.

Across the county, the SEV taxable value for 2010 is down by an unprecedented $888.5 million from 2009, to $20.94 billion, which includes both real and personal property. That number is the lowest it's been since 2006, when it stood at $20.2 billion.

The county's taxable value had risen each year from 1996 through 2009. The largest increase over that period came in 1998 when it went up by 7.3 percent. The smallest increase came last year when the taxable value rose by slightly more than three-tenths of 1 percent, and did so even though the equalized value of all properties in the county fell by 2 percent. Inflation drove the taxable value up last year.

In 2009, the taxable value of all properties in the county came to nearly 92 percent of the equalized value. When the taxable value meets a property's equalized value, the tax can't rise on that property.

Next Week: With Kentwood being hit the hardest by the loss of taxable value, Mayor Richard Root talks about what it means for his city.

The SEV scorecard

Here are the declines in the 2010 State Equalized Value for commercial, industrial and residential properties for the nine cities in Kent County.

City
Wyoming
Walker
Grand Rapids
Grandville
Cedar Springs
Rockford
East Grand Rapids
Lowell
Total Cities

Commercial SEV
-5.23%
-4.12%
-2.69%
-3.33%
-5.55%
-2.19%
-1.24%
-0.44%
-4.00%

Industrial SEV
-6.79%
-4.54%
-5.68%
-2.89%
-3.92%
+0.38%
-3.16%
N.A.
-6.65%
-4.94%

Residential SEV
-10.23%
-7.03%
-6.16%
-6.26%
-6.45%
-3.79%
-4.38%
-3.25%
-0.87%
-5.94%

Total SEV
-8.95%
-6.21%
-5.53%
-5.04%
-4.98%
-4.00%
-3.79%
-3.17%
-1.10%
-5.34%

Source: Kent County Bureau of Equalization, December 2009

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