Governor John P. deJongh, Jr. announced Saturday at the Annual Meeting of the Virgin Islands Territorial Association of REALTORS at Caneel Bay on St. John that President Bush had signed a bill that had been stalled in the U.S. Congress that would allow the Legislature of the Virgin Islands to implement special assessment rates for real property tax bills.

Tom Bolt, General Counsel for VITAR explained to the group that previously the federal court had ruled that the local goverment did not have the authority to provide special assessment rates.  "This put homestead, veterans, senior citizens, and disabled persons assessment rates in jeopardy." Bolt explained.  "With the new law in place, these rates are now authorized by law." Attorney Bolt explained. 

"This will not end the Virgin Islands property tax dilema," Bolt said.  The Governor told the VITAR audience on Saturday that the property tax assessments would be out by the middle of July.  "Once property taxes have been reassessed, property owners will be given the opportunity to appeal their new assessments," Bolt told the REALTORS, "but I believe that the Legislature will need to review the actual assessment rates."

Governor deJongh also noted various urban development issues to the REALTORS.  He said that even though each island had its own set of problems there were many "common threads" such as the need for parking in the town areas.  The Governor also said that he planned to "step up" the marketing of the Territory’s Economic Development Program and to highlight financial services as an important facet of the Virgin Islands economy.

Governor deJongh called on the REALTORS to join him in supporting those members of Congress that help the Territory, such as Representative Charles Rangel, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.  "When these VI supporters come to the Territory we must turn out to support them."  Governor deJongh said.