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Property values in St. Louis County drop 7 percent since 2011, putting squeeze on school districts

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Although some experts report that the region’s real estate market seems to be settling down, St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman today reports that wasn’t necessarily the case for the county – where median residential property values have dropped by 7 percent, compared to the last reassessment in 2011.

In some parts of the county hit hard by foreclosure, the property values are down 12 percent or more, he reported. What Zimmerman didn’t say is that drops in property values mean declines in property taxes paid to local governments and school districts, which rely on property taxes for much of their income.

Several school districts in north St. Louis County appear to have been hit the hardest. Property values in the Riverview Gardens school district dropped by 23.9 percent since 2011, with the newly combined Normandy/Wellston school district seeing property-value declines of 15.4 percent, followed by a 13.4 percent drop in the Ritenour district and 12.2 percent in Jennings.

The smallest decline was in the Kirkwood School District, where property values overall dropped by only .2 percent.  No county school district saw a property-value increase over the past two years.

Zimmerman emphasized that the numbers were preliminary and could change before the July 1 deadline for the final propery assessments. But based on past practices in the county, although individual properties may see some shifts, the overall assessment numbers aren't likely to change.

Property owners can review their preliminary figures online.Those with questions, or who want to challenge their property's preliminary figures, can call the assessor's office at 314-615-4500 (residential) or 314-615-4984 (commercial).

“The good news is that sales volume is finally picking up and the real estate market appears to be turning around,” Zimmerman said in a statement. “But our economy still has some work to do before the majority of property values begin rising again. These values reflect the continuing difficulty in the local real estate market over the past two years. While some individual properties and neighborhoods have seen value increases, most of St. Louis County real estate has continued to experience declines.”

Zimmerman noted: “We believe releasing these preliminary values to the public as early as possible will give the public time to review and bring to our attention any issues they may have. I strongly encourage all St. Louis County taxpayers to look at their preliminary values online and let us know of any issues before Missouri law requires me to close the book on this year.”

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.