Thursday, May 7, 2009

Reassessment furor ends in a whisper

The hue and cry about reassessments in Augusta County apparently ended with barely a whisper last night when the Board of Supervisors voted 7-0 to lower the tax rate to 48¢. It had been 58¢ since the 1980s. In passing the $72 million budget that is almost 5% less than last year's, supervisors reduced spending in some areas, gave no raises, and eliminated or froze 18 positions in the various offices including some affecting public safety.
Even with the increase in assessed values, with the cut in the tax rate many of the county's homeowners will see a decrease in their real estate tax. On the home front, my taxes will drop about $80 per year in spite of the improvements we've made and a (deserved) higher assessment. Many farmers with pasture and cornfields in land use will also enjoy a reduction on that part of their real estate tax. 
All that's left is for the Circuit Court judge to dismiss the groundless lawsuit brought by perpetual gadfly Francis Chester and send him back to his sheep. One good outcome of all the publicity was getting that hypocrite to pay back taxes. But, from where I roost, he and his cohorts owe residents an apology for fanning the flames of fear and division with his rants and misinformation.


Belle Rose said...

Talked to two neighbors, each with hundreds of acres in land use. Both had significant DECREASES in real estate tax owed - just as I'd predicted would be true for most in that situation. Now, I'll admit that the new tax rate is just a little less than revenue neutral for the county. So, if farmers under land use and about 1/2 of homeowners saw a tax decrease, that means others saw an increase. The burden has shifted, most likely to commercial property and to homes on large acreage lots. From where I sit, that's a good thing as it should help preserve our agricultural heritage and cause some to think twice before gobbling up farmland with large acreage, sprawling subdivisions. Of course, the statistical wizards at afp may disagree.

Truth-teller said...

I guess you got Mr. AFP's attention, judging by this completely nonsensical comment he left on his own article:

Truth-teller said...

More nonsense from Mr. AFP in response to the "nonsensical" comment. Assessments went up, tax rates went down. What part of "revenue neutral" does he not understand?

It's true, I have to admit, that the lowered rate isn't truly neutral, since the BOS, thanks to whiners like Francis Chester and folks like Mr. AFP (who doesn't even live in the county, let's remember), over-compensated and lowered too much.

But, it seems to me, with higher assessed values and a lower starting point on rates, the BOS actually has more flexibility than they had before. A 2 cent raise in a couple of years might not be unpalatable, going to 50 cents. Hitting the 60 cent mark on the other hand, if the rates had stayed where they were, would cause a stink.

Belle Rose said...

Finally read the comments you pointed me to, Truth-teller. All I can say is "huh?" and "what the *&%#." Brings to mind that classic John Ciardi quote.

Interesting to note that H'burg had a 5%ish increase in assessments (they do it yearly) but didn't cut the tax rate. So, an effective increase, esp for commercial property where assessments rose the most while most homes were far less. Of course, this is apple and oranges because it was farm land in Augusta that let the increases - but see below. Anyhow, little outrage in the 'Burg and no comment from our bud.

The more I think about it, the way this process (and it is a process with many steps and opportunities for adjustments, equalization, equity) worked is really pretty good. Now, I do wish all localities had 2 year reassessments - reduce the sticker shock and would be more accurate. The way this played out should have a beneficial effect by keeping more acreage in land use and help to preserve our agricultural heritage. The roll back tax will hit pretty hard if someone wants to take ag land and develop it. From where I sit, that's a good thing. After all, farms have far less impact on county expenses than do homes. But, that's just corny old me.