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Equalized real estate tax rate will be increased by three cents

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Property assessments being readied in King George

A real estate reassessment has been underway in King George and assessments are being readied by Blue Ridge Mass Appraisals that will go into effect next year.   
Blue Ridge’s Mike Didawick recently provided a brief report on his company’s reassessment process to the Board of Supervisors.  
Didawick said on Sept. 15 that the county has about 12,500 parcels, adding that the company expected to finish up in the intervening weeks.
With the current economy, will property values go up or down?  
Didawick said three weeks ago that there were only about 500 parcels left to process.  But “it’s too early to say what is going to happen to the values.”  
Didawick noted that land values in King George remain strong, adding, “There may be a slight increase in land values.”
 “Raw land is still increasing in value everywhere, including this county,” he said.
Some owners of vacant lots may be in for a larger hike in values than they expect. Didawick told supervisors that when the last assessment was performed four years ago, there were about 300 vacant lots that were skipped for reassessment.  
Didawick said they discovered that those lots continued to carry the previous values from the previous assessment. That previous assessment was done by another company, Tri-County Appraisals.
Commissioner of Revenue Faye Lumpkin, the contract administrator for the assessment, said she was not aware of that report.
Didawick had also told supervisors that the previous assessments for numerous houses with attached garages with living areas above them were likewise incorrectly valued at garage above garage, instead of living area above garage. He said those corrections have been made for the upcoming assessment.  

REASSESSMENT NOTICES TO GO OUT
Didawick noted that Blue Ridge would prepare and mail reassessment notices to property owners on or about Oct. 16.  
Didawick could not be reached by phone this week for confirmation of the mailing date of the assessment notices. Lumpkin likewise could provide no information on when the mailing would go out.
Such notices typically contain information about the valuation of property and would be expected to include a phone number, along with dates and timeframes for hearings for property owners who wish to protest the amount of their property assessments and want to schedule an appointment.  
Didawick stated that property owners who attend a hearing will receive written responses.
The hearings are expected to take place in the Revercomb Administration Building, located behind the Courthouse in the Combs Board room on the ground floor of the administration building.  
Property books are expected to be available for residents to inspect, so they can compare their property valuations with other comparable properties in their area of the county.  
Generally, property owners who wish to be successful in protesting the valuations would be expected to bring proof that the assessment is too high, such as a recent professional appraisal or evidence of lower selling prices for similar properties recently sold in the area.

BOARD OF EQUALIZATION

Property owners who wish to question their valuations are not required to protest to Blue Ridge Mass Appraisals.
Instead, they can protest the valuation of new assessments to a county Board of Equalization.  Or they can do both.  
Virginia law requires that following each reassessment, that localities establish a Board of Equalization to hear appeals by landowners.
The King George Board of Supervisors is expected to nominate members to a Board of Equalization by the end of November, whose appointments will be made by the Circuit Court.
The five members who are to appointed must attend and participate in training provided by the state Department of Taxation to prepare them for their duties.  
Meetings of the Board of Equalization have not yet been scheduled, but are expected to begin in January.  

REASSESSMENTS AND TAX RATES
The new assessments will officially go into effect on Jan. 1, 2010, meaning tax bills will not be affected until the June 2010 first half-year payment is due.
There is likewise no change in the amount billed for the second half-year payment for 2009 property taxes, which will be mailed out next month by the county and due to be paid on Dec. 5.
The Board of Supervisors will make adjustments on the real estate tax rate in spring 2010.    
During budget deliberations next calendar year, Supervisors will be provided an “equalized” tax rate by county finance staff.
It is not known at this time whether that county’s equalized tax rate will lower or higher than the current 45 cents per $100 valuation.
The equalized tax rate figure will reflect a calculation of what the tax rate would be if the same amount of real estate tax revenue were to be realized by the county as in the current year, but based on the new real estate assessments.  
Any proposed tax rate above the equalized rate would be considered a county tax increase and would be advertised as such.

Phyllis Cook
Staff Reporter

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