Juneauʼs property assessments show a sharp increase in home values

The sun rises over downtown on Dec. 22, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Last week, the City and Borough of Juneau sent property assessment notices to Juneau homeowners. And for some, they were way up — on Facebook, homeowners reported increases as high as 40%. 

Jeff Rogers, the city finance director, said the assessments should be close to the amount a home could have sold for in January when the data was collected.

“Property assessment is about one thing and one thing only,” he said. “It is an objective determination, by a non-biased party, of what every property in the borough is worth.”

Rogers said the city assessors rely on sales data, which is more limited here than in most of the country. Alaska is one of only several states that doesnʼt require disclosure of real estate sale prices. In 2020, Juneau mandated disclosure of real estate prices, but that was repealed in October of 2022

But Rogers said the appraisals are based on sales prices that have been disclosed for similar types of homes and locations.

“Generally speaking, somebody who bought a house in the last year or two is not surprised by their assessment. Because they paid that high price for it, probably, right?” Rogers said.

Axel Gillam and his partner bought their downtown one-bedroom house in 2021 — and they are surprised. Gillam says this yearʼs assessment was $100,000 higher than last year’s assessed value of $400,000. 

“We’re in the community, we’re here long term and we’re permanent,” Gillam said. “We’re contributing to the community, and it seems like a little slap in the face for our one-bedroom to be assessed at such a high value.”

Rogers said some houses can appreciate more rapidly because their values are affected by the sales prices of other, similar homes. But he cautioned that an increased assessment doesnʼt mean property taxes will increase proportionally. The Juneau Assembly will set a mill rate during its budget process, and that will determine property taxes. 

If the mill rate stays the same as last year, some Juneau homeowners will have to pay far higher taxes. Likewise, if itʼs set low enough, property taxes could stay flat. 

Rogers said the Assembly has to factor in the cityʼs financial needs when determining the mill rate. 

“The Assembly is going to be looking at the question saying, what is the cost growth in the budget?” he said. “How much do we need property taxes to increase in order to pay for those things?”

Gillam is worried about how that will turn out. Last year, he saw a $40,000 increase in his property assessment, and his monthly mortgage payments rose by $100. If the mill rate stayed the same with this year’s even higher jump in value, Gillam said it would strain their finances. 

“It will put stress on us for sure,” Gillam said. 

He said they are planning to appeal the assessment.

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