Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Newport lowers property tax

Exception: Vacant real estate

By Travis Gettys
Enquirer contributor

NEWPORT - Property owners will get tax-rate relief - as long as their property isn't vacant.

City commissioners gave unanimous approval Monday to two measures - one that would lower property taxes by 17.1 percent from last year, and another that would penalize owners of abandoned buildings.

Most property owners will see their real estate tax reduced from $2.57 per $1,000 of assessed value to $2.13 per $1,000, but owners of vacant properties will be taxed an additional $1.50 per $1,000.

Rising property values have allowed the city to lower real estate tax rates for 19 consecutive years without experiencing a decline in revenue, said Chief Financial Officer Greg Engleman.

Rates have declined from a high in 1986 of $6.49 per $1,000 of assessed value, Engleman said. But in the years since, commercial developments such as Newport on the Levee and home improvement incentives such as the establishment of the East Row Historic District have driven up property values.

Penalizing owners of abandoned buildings gives the city an additional tool to encourage commercial and residential development in existing buildings, said City Manager Phil Ciafardini.

"We've done a good job of going after vacant property and abandoned property, (and) this will be a more effective way to rid neighborhoods of those abandoned properties," Ciafardini said.

The General Assembly voted in March to allow smaller cities like Newport and Covington to use the penalty to eliminate blighted properties. Code enforcement officers will determine which properties meet criteria outlined under state law and submit a list by January 1 to the Campbell County property valuation administrator.

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