A board tasked with reviewing appeals from Amherst County property owners during the county’s 2020 countywide real estate reassessment recently presented a report to county officials on its activities.
Kenneth Althous, Jr., chair of the Board of Equalization, addressed the Amherst County Board of Supervisors during its June 1 meeting. An Amherst Circuit Court order in October 2019 appointed the board of equalization’s three members and an alternate member to terms from Jan. 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020.
The BOE heard 70 appeal hearings in 2020, reducing the assessment values in 50 cases, increasing them in six cases and making no changes in 14 cases, according to the report.
The combined total assessment value of the property cases prior to appeals being heard was $31,961,800.
The value of those same properties after rulings by the BOE was $27,712,200, a $4.2 million drop, or 13.2%.
Of that total, a single industrial property accounted for $2.1 million, or 50% of the decrease. Using the county’s real estate tax rate of 61 cents per $100 of assessed value, the negative tax revenue effect for the county is $12,902 following the BOE’s rulings.
The BOE offered suggestions it believes can improve the overall reassessment process, including consideration of moving the process to in-house county staff rather than contracting with a third party.
Althous told supervisors some people come to the assessment appeal hearings asking the BOE why their property values increased, adding the question should be asked of the assessor, Daleville-based Wampler-Eanes Appraisal Group.
The BOE also suggests the county consider doing a countywide assessment more frequently than every six years.
“There are very few jurisdictions that wait that long in the commonwealth in Virginia to do a reassessment,” Althous said of the six-year period.
Supervisor Tom Martin said he thinks a majority of the recommendations appear to be simple and he is interested in county staff looking into the potential costs for an in-house assessor’s office.
“I tend to agree with you,” Martin said to Althous of the gap between assessments. “Every six years is a long time.”
The county spends about $225,000 to $250,000 to have countywide reassessments done, according to Supervisor David Pugh and County Administrator Dean Rodgers. Pugh said he would not be in favor of doing assessments annually, noting the effects on the county’s limited resources in the budget.
Rodgers said he has inquired with surrounding localities about potentially pursuing a joint assessor and sharing in the contributing costs, adding it didn’t generate interest.
“I’m happy to look at the different combinations of resources we could employ,” Rodgers told supervisors.
Athous said one of the most important benefits the BOE believes would come from an in-house assessment setup is more control over the process.
“When a third party does that, you’re turning a lot of control over to that third party,” Althous said.
Properties are classified in five types: residential, commercial, multifamily, industrial and agricultural.