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Members of the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors said Monday they want to lower the real estate tax rate due to large increases in the assessed value of county properties.

“I have not seen this type of increase in residential homes in 20 years,” said Fred Pearson, the contracted assessor for this year’s reassessment, who has over three decades of experience.

And it’s not just residential properties that have seen dramatic increases over the last four years since Rockingham County last assessed properties, he said.

“A lot of the industrial buildings got large increases,” Pearson said.

In some cases, values of such properties doubled, while others increased 70%, according to Pearson.

Assessments are based on 2021 real estate data, and the market is white-hot — not just in the Valley, but across the nation.

Additionally, Pearson company assessors visited 99% of county properties, according to Pearson. He said the fraction of those not seen had locked gates or some other kind of barrier to viewing the home or property.

Pearson said no locality that Pearson’s Appraisal Service reviewed this year had a decrease in property value — real estate in Westmoreland and Grayson counties is up between 30% and 32% on average.

In Rockingham County, most home values went up about 40%, he said.

As a result of the increases in property assessments, an unchanged real estate tax rate will yield a large revenue haul that members of the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors said will be far more than necessary.

They are looking at potentially paring back the current rate of 74 cents per $100 of assessed value, they said.

The rate needs to be adjusted “without question,” said Sallie Wolfe-Garrison, District 2 supervisor.

“I cannot imagine in [the proposed budget] we have anticipated expenditures that would warrant revenue generation to that degree,” she said.

Fellow Supervisors Dewey Ritchie, of District 1, and Bill Kyger, of District 4, agreed, adding they cannot identify a new rate until the proposed budget is available and the needs for the next fiscal year are known for certain. Supervisors Rick Chandler and Mike Breeden could not be reached for comment Monday.

“The rate needs to go down quite a bit,” Ritchie said.

He said he has had countless residents reach out to him on the matter.

“No matter where you go, you’d hear it,” he said. “It affects everybody that owns a house or real estate.”

Kyger said much of the county’s spending is required by state or federal law, such as schools and public safety. Regardless, the county doesn’t have a need for the influx of cash it would get from the increased assessments if the rate goes unchanged.

“There is a process involved, and I feel certain that we’re not going to keep the current rate with the assessments people got,” he said.

Many property owners are calling the county asking how taxes can be raised during the pandemic, according to Dan Cullers, commissioner of the revenue.

Cullers said the county is not raising taxes because it has not increased the real estate tax rate — the projected increase in tax to the property owner is because of the leap in value since the last assessment.

“That’s probably the biggest misunderstanding in the process,” he said.

He also said some of the terms are often mistaken. “Improvements” listed on the assessment does not refer to improvements since the last assessment, but all improvements to the property — including existing homes, sheds and barns.

Property owners who want to dispute their assessment have until Monday to sign up for a Board of Assessor hearing, according to Cullers. Those interested can call 540-564-5079 to make an appointment, Cullers said.

Additionally, if a property owner is not content after the hearing, they can appeal to a citizen’s hearing, he said. The citizen’s hearing board is made up of one resident from each district, according to Cullers.

He said property owners who want to appeal their assessment should do research on recent home sales in their area to have the best data to make their argument to the assessment board effectively.

Wolfe-Garrison said the Board of Supervisors can’t change the real estate market or stop doing assessments — but it can still make a difference by adjusting the real estate tax rate.

“What we can control is looking very analytically at the revenue that we need to ensure we can continue to provide services to our residents they require and expect from us in a conservatively economic approach,” Wolfe-Garrison said.

Rockingham County and other localities must reassess property regularly due to the state code. Harrisonburg reassesses properties every year, while the county does it every four years.

Real estate assessments are up in Harrisonburg by about 11% on average from last year, according to a previous interview with city staff.

“This is one of our larger increases in a long time,” Lisa Neunlist, director of the city’s real estate department, said in a December interview. “I’ve been here close to 30 years, so I really haven’t seen this high of a real estate market.”

Realty experts have many ideas on what is leading to the extreme seller’s market in real estate these days.

One reason has been low interest rates; another is the pandemic, which forced more people to reevaluate their living situation as they spend more time inside their homes, Scott Rogers, a Realtor with Funkhouser Real Estate Group and creator of HarrisonburgHousingToday.com, said in a December interview about increased assessments in the city. The third reason, Rogers said, is American households savings rate has increased over the past two years.

Contact Ian Munro at 574-6278 or imunro@dnronline.com. Follow Ian on Twitter @iamIanMunro

(1) comment

freeride

While I'm skeptical the tax rate may significantly go down to off set the RIDICULOUS increase, the article lost credibility at the end when the real reasons for the housing crunch and sky rocketing prices were left out! The prolonged moratoriums on evictions for non-payment of rent and mortgages obviously and directly led to the lack of available affordable housing and should have been acknowledged by an ethical news reporter.

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