Friday, January 02, 2009

Your Assessor Didn't Do It. Your BOS Did.

Patrick County citizens are up in arms over their latest property assessments. Well, to be a bit more accurate, they are upset over their latest property tax bill. This time of year that is a fairly common complaint all across Virginia. This year it's Patrick County, next year it may be Henrico. Or perhaps Suffolk. Or any of Virginia's other counties. What the good people of Patrick County do not know, and I'll wager most Virginians do not know either, is that their new re-assessment did not cause their property tax bill to shoot through the roof.

Yes, I meant what I wrote. Your increased assessment did not cause your property tax to increase. Your Board of Supervisors caused that increase.

The Code of Virginia, (that great big book with all of Virginia's many laws listed in an orderly manner), makes it clear. Any new assessment that causes a tax bill increase of more than 1% requires, yes, requires, a reduction in the tax rate. A rate reduction that will bring all tax bills back into that 1% range.

What the Code of Virginia does not require is that the new tax remain at the reduced rate. Read that again. The new tax does not have to remain at it's legally required lower rate.

My neighbors in Patrick County; Your tax rate went up, not because of your new assessment, but because your Board of Supervisors cannot control their spending.

I'm sure if you go back and look at the minutes of your Board of Supervisors meetings you will find the quick, quiet, probably unanimous vote to roll back your tax rate. A roll back that brought your tax bill within the legal 1% increase range.

Further searches through those minutes will reveal a vote, equally quick and quiet, unanimous or not, that immediately raised that rate to where it is now.

These two votes could have even occurred during the same meeting. They may have even been concurrent votes. Or even a vote on a single motion to both lower and raise the rate. All the law requires is that the rate be lowered.

Oh, to be sure, there is a requirement that all this be explained on your tax bill. And I'll bet it is. But is it explained in a manner that you can follow and understand? Not likely. Otherwise you guys would not be so upset about your assessment. Or nearly so mad at your idiot assessor.

As your former Delegate, Barnie Day recently stated in an Op-Ed in the Martinsville Bulletin;
Most of the rage, consternation and anguish brought about by the recent real property reassessment in Patrick County is misdirected.

The state does not establish the value of our real estate. The county does not — nor does the town council, the farm bureau, the Boy Scouts, etc.

Simply put, the marketplace sets this value — the marketplace and nothing else. It is a hypothetical expression of what a willing buyer would likely give a willing seller, as determined by the best evidence available — comparable sales, best estimates and so on.
The guy who assessed your property most likely got it right. Or at least very close. He or she has no reason to do otherwise, and many reasons not to get it wrong. As licensed, regulated professionals their work is based upon the marketplace, experience, research, and again, the marketplace.

I suggest you ask your Supervisor about this. Ask him why the board can't restrain its spending. Ask him why the explanation is not more clearly explained on your bill.

Just don't go on blaming the wrong guy. Your assessor didn't do it.

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