Property values fall again

April 23, 2011
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Although the drop wasn’t as steep as last year’s 5.18 percent, the equalized value of all property in Kent County still took a flyer, falling by 3.7 percent for a loss of about $842 million, or slightly more than the value of all the real and personal property in East Grand Rapids, Lowell and Tyrone Township. 

A year ago, the equalized value across the county declined by $1.23 billion.

Kent County Equalization Director Matt Woolford said last week the state equalized value of real and personal properties in the county’s nine cities and 21 townships totaled $21.7 billion, which is down from $22.5 billion for the previous year. About half of that loss came from lower home values.

“These changes are significant,” said Woolford. He added that even if the economy rebounded quickly there would be a lag of at least two years before property values reflected a gain, as state law limits an increase to 5 percent or inflation, whichever is lower.

Of the county’s 30 municipalities, only Cannon, Courtland and Tyrone townships and East Grand Rapids had equalized values go up slightly last year. Those four, along with Sparta and Vergennes townships, saw taxable values inch up. But the city of Grand Rapids dropped below the $5 billion mark for the first time in years, to $4.9 billion.

Prior to the Great Recession, the equalized value reached $24.3 billion in 2007. Nearly $3 billion in property value has been lost in the county since the housing market crashed in September of that year.

The taxable value also fell by roughly $504 million this year to $20.5 billion, a decline of 2.39 percent. Unless there is quite a bit of new construction this year, the decline in taxable value will mean less property-tax revenue next year for most taxing jurisdictions in the county, including the county.

Kent County Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio said the loss in taxable value will likely mean a loss in property-tax revenue of about $1.5 million for the county’s 2012 budget. Grand Rapids CFO Scott Buhrer said the city will lose $300,000 in property-tax revenue this year.

The taxable value in 2007 was $21.3 billion, or about $800 million more than it is today.

All four property classifications had losses in equalized values this year, including agriculture, which had risen in previous years despite the recession. This year, agricultural parcels fell from $313.9 million to $309.4 million. Commercial dipped from $4.7 billion to $4.6 billion. Industrial dropped from $1.5 billion to $1.2 billion.

Residential properties in the county fell from $14.1 billion to $13.7 billion. The Community Research Institute at Grand Valley State University reported 3,148 foreclosures countywide last year, up from 3,068 in 2009.

“Residential is the most significant of the classes,” said Woolford. He said downward pressure on home prices has slowed but hasn’t stopped. “I haven’t seen a pattern emerge to tell you where things are going to go.”

The value of personal property held fairly steady, though, only slipping slightly from $1.85 billion to $1.84 billion.

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