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Property won't be assessed this year

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Hoping that the real estate market will stabilize soon, the Carroll County Board of Supervisors on Dec. 7 voted to delay its required reassessment of property values for one year.

For the second meeting in a row, County Administrator Gary Larrowe relayed a report from Assessor Janie Harrison, saying the elected officials needed to either seek a third party to do the reassessment or delay it from its four-year interval.

"In the present economic climate, general reassessment, market value and reduction in taxes are hot topics," Harrison's report to the supervisors read. "There is great concern with localities across Virginia regarding declining real estate values and the effects on the overall tax base and tax rate in reassessments."

Carroll County's reassessment would need two years to plan, conduct sales studies, field reviews and hearings, she wrote.

"To meet this deadline for an effective date of Jan. 1, 2012, and to address future budget requirements and workload planning, a decision will need to be made in the next couple of months on the time frame and option for the next general reassessment."

Harrison suggested that the supervisors could either go with Mount Rogers Planning District to proceed with reassessment work, put out a request for proposals and contract with a private firm or delay the reassessment for a year or two as allowed by state law.

Mount Rogers has hired the Blue Ridge Appraisal Company to conduct reassessments needed by localities, Harrison said. She expected working with Mount Rogers would cost nearly $450,000.

The last time Carroll hired the reassessment out to a private firm in 2004, it cost the county $497,000, but rates have increased to $18 to $21 per land parcel.

Considering that Carroll has 32,523 parcels, Harrison expected the costs with a private firm to range between $600,000 to $700,000.

Delaying the next reassessment could spread out the cost across more time, for one, Harrison included in her report.

Putting the next reassessment off would also "allow the market to stabilize before sales analysis is conducted to establish values for the general reassessment," she wrote. "Once values are set, they cannot be changed until the next reassessment period."

There's also the chance that, if real estate values go down, the tax rate would have to go up to bring in the same revenue.

A chart showed that if real estate values fell 10 percent from 2009's $2.59 billion to $2.33 billion, then the tax rate would have to go from the current 59.5 cents per $100 of real estate to 66 cents per $100 to bring in the same revenue.

If the real estate values dropped by 15 percent, then the tax rate would have to increase to 70 cents in order for the county to collect the same revenue as it is now.

Harrison noted that the real estate value ratios remain at a good level at this time.

Finance committee member and Supervisor Wes Hurst, after having considering the matter for a month, made the motion to delay the reassessment for a year.

"I feel that it would be advisable… to postpone the reassessment by one year," he said. "I believe that we might have a little bit better economic indicators within that time, of what's actually out there and what's going on."

Supervisor Andy Jackson seconded the motion.

Supervisor Sam Dickson indicated he wasn't in favor of the delay.

Supervisor Tom Littrell said he could see it both ways.

The last time Carroll reassessed, it ended up at the the top range of land and property values, he said. If the county goes ahead on the normal four year cycle, the real estate will probably be assessed at closer to their actual value.

At the same time, Littrell could see that possible lesser values on real estate could lead to less revenue, unless the tax rate is adjusted.

"I think I'm leaning toward the normal four year cycle," he concluded.

In the end, the supervisors split 4-2, with Littrell and Dickson voting against the motion.