By John Denny

Observer Reporter

(Charlestown, Nevis) – The method of setting property tax rates on Nevis is about to change – for the first time in 95 years.

At the April 15 sitting, the Nevis Island Assembly had a second reading of the 2007 tax bill. The bill proposes to restructure the way property tax is collected on the island. The last time property tax laws were amended in Nevis was 1913.

The structure of the old law was based on the rental value of the property, but the new act will base property tax on the value assessment of the land and its structures.

“Owners will pay one rate according to the valuation of their home,” said Premier Joseph Parry. “All property owners should pay, businesses and individuals.”

Under the new tax act, new homeowners will be given a one-year grace period to pay their property tax and all homeowners would be given a certificate of assessment on the valuation of their property.

Mr. Parry said there would be exceptions for those who had been granted tax concessions and special consideration would be given to individuals that the new tax would place in financial hardship. He also said that under the present tax law, Four Seasons pays no property tax, but under the 2007 tax act they would.

Vice Premier Hensley Daniel delivered a report on public health at the session.

According to Mr. Daniel, 15 people on Nevis are presently receiving anti-retroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS.

The cost is high, he said – EC$3,188.00 every three months – but the expense was being covered by the Global Fund for TB & HIV.

There are 29 people working on Nevis in various organizations to educate the public in the avoidance of HIV through the use of abstinence, behavior change and condoms, Mr. Daniel said.

There has been a reduction in the funding for social services since 1998 and that the Assembly needs to give it more attention, not only for the sake of HIV, but to “stem the tide of antisocial behavior and crime and intervene in the lives of young people,” he said.

Junior Minister for Public Works, Hon. Carlisle Powell, also had a report on water and geothermal exploration and the possibility of bringing wind power to the island.

“I’m happy to report that the drilling for water continues,” Mr. Powell said. “We have a letter from a representative of the drilling company… that says they have found an estimated 600,000 gallons per day, which is going to be made available to the people of Nevis very soon. Most of this new water will come from a well at Maddens.”

Mr. Powell said public works was looking into the possibility of sending some of the newly-found water to Gingerland to ensure continuous service throughout the island. Drilling continues at Maddens, but producing wells are completed in Cotton Ground and Barnes Ghaut.

On the geothermal project, West Indies Power is nearing 2,000 feet of depth at the Nevis 1 site at Spring Hill, Mr. Powell said.

Temperatures from the well are at 270 degrees Fahrenheit or 132 Celsius and increasing at a rate of 10 degrees Celsius per 100 feet of depth, he said.

Representatives from The Industrial Company (TIC), a firm that builds geothermal electric generators, wants to begin construction on the island in August or September of this year. Mr. Powell also mentioned the legal framework for bringing wind generated power

“We [NIA] are working hard at a renewable energy supply because with renewable energy, there is no fuel surcharge and we on this side see it as our duty to make every effort to reduce the cost of living,” he said.