By: Michael Campbell, News Editor
June 14, 2017 | 1:30 p.m.
DINWIDDIE – The flurry of activity outside the county government complex as crews prepare to erect new facilities along Boydton Plank Road may be rivaled by a flurry of activity inside the Commissioner of Revenue’s office as Dinwiddie prepares to execute its first countywide reassessment since 2013.
As the 2018 fiscal year gets underway on July 1, so too does work by Wampler-Eanes Appraisal Group out of Daleville as the group is expected to come to Dinwiddie later that month to begin gathering key information that will be used in the massive reassessment process.
As the county gears up for the required undertaking, Commissioner of Revenue Lori Stevens and County Administrator Kevin Massengill explained the basics of the reassessment and what it means for county home and land owners across Dinwiddie.
The Commonwealth requires all localities to reassess property on a regular basis, with the assessed value of the property being used to determine what a land or homeowner’s share of property tax is.
In the past, Massengill and Stevens noted the county was on a four-year reassessment cycle dating back to 2009, which was at a time when they note growth was strong across the county, but that growth has slowed as Dinwiddie and America continue to recover from the housing crisis of the later portion of that decade.
With every reassessment, the goal is to reach 100 percentage of full market value across the county, which is also stipulated in state code. To determine that percentage, Stevens noted that market value, which is “the amount a typical well-informed purchaser would be willing to pay for a property,” is analyzed by looking at the transactions to ensure the buyer and seller aren’t related, the buyer and seller must be a willing party who are not under any undue pressure to buy or sell, the property must be on the market for “a reasonable length of time,” and the payment must be in cash or its equivalent, and the financing, if needed, “must be typical of that type of property.”
If those conditions are met, the sale is considered a “market value” or “arm’s length” transaction.
According to Massengill, the county’s market value rate was relatively low in their perspective around the 2009 reassessment, resting around the sixty percent range.
Since that time, as the markets continue to improve locally, the percentage has improved to nearly 96 percent, which motivated county officials to delay the reassessment from its four-year cycle to six years, the maximum span allowed by law between reassessments.
The county and the appraisal company will have a large task ahead of it as it evaluates over 20,000 parcels of land, homes, commercial, and industrial properties across 500-plus square miles of Dinwiddie. For homeowners, Stevens explained a homeowner’s property card is a key piece of the reassessment, as it is part of what they use to conduct the reassessment.
Those property cards are available for review on the county’s website and at Dinwiddie’s Commissioner of Revenue’s office.
Stevens added that changes to a home can affect the reassessed value, be it the addition of a garage or a swimming pool or the removal of an outbuilding, which may or may not be reported on a property card despite the diligent efforts of the office to go out and do field observations when building records show construction being done.
Due to that possibility and as part of their contract with the county to perform the reassessment, officials with Wampler-Eanes will be out and about visiting the over 20,000 parcels in the county. According to Stevens, the individuals, who will be credentialed and driving in clearly marked vehicles, will take a picture of the front and rear of a property to confirm they visited each property that is being assessed and to make sure they are at the correct parcel.
County officials stressed that those photos will not be placed on the county website for public display.
“We want to ensure that they go to the property and that it’s documented and they are taking the time to do the reassessment accurately,” Stevens said.
She added that appraisers will not come into the home and, if there is something that is absolutely necessary to be reviewed inside the home, they will make an appointment to have two company representatives make the visit in an effort to ensure the safety of assessors and the homeowner.
“Some people want to be on property when the appraisers come, such as those who may have many outbuildings,” Stevens remarked. “All the taxpayer needs to do is say they want to be there when they come and an appointment will be made that is convenient to the taxpayer.”
Additionally, the firm will not make entry onto locked properties, instead opting to reach out to the county to try to make contact with the taxpayer to gain access to the property.
When it comes to property owners of all types, be it home, business, or land, both Stevens and Massengill said many of the questions they receive when it comes to the reassessment is if a property owner’s taxes will be going up due to the reassessment.
“Taxes going up is the big question we see,” they remarked. “People think this is what this whole process is about, but it is about the distribution of taxes and equity, which is the crux of the state’s purpose for this process.”
Massengill added that many people understand that this process is sales driven, but the fair market sales ratio is expected to not shift in a major way as the county’s ratio still rests in the high-90s, according to their data between assessments.
“Fortunately, Dinwiddie is recovering from the 2009 fallout,” Massengill said, noting that the county made it out of that year relatively unscathed, but, toward 2010, some neighborhoods in the county saw a marked increase in foreclosures as the credit markets contracted and those who may have been on adjustable rate mortgages or suffered a significant loss of income were forced to downsize their home. “We’re stronger and we are not seeing a ton of foreclosures and we are ahead of schedule on new construction and homes already.”
Homes and commercial properties aren’t the only ones being reviewed during the reassessment as open land, including forested and agricultural land, and industrial buildings and facilities, such as warehouses and mines.
Due to the sheer scope of the work ahead of them, the field work by the assessment team isn’t expected to be completed until the mid-summer of 2018 by the company, who will be housed in an office near the courthouse during much of their work in Dinwiddie.
Once the assessments are complete, Stevens said reassessment notices will be mailed to property owners in the fall of 2018.
For those who don’t agree with the assessment, property owners can schedule a meeting with the firm so they can go over the information in their file and review the notes on the property, but “the burden of proof rests with the taxpayer to prove why the should have their assessment changed.”
If a property owner does disagree with the assessment after the file book is submitted, the matter would go to the county’s board of equalization, where the firm and owner will be able to argue their case and it would be in the hands of that board to make the decision, which could result in the assessment being raised, decreased, or kept the same.
From there, if a property owner feels they still have not received a resolution to their assessment, the matter can go before the Dinwiddie Circuit Court.
All that data will be compiled and analyzed by the county to help dictate the county’s real estate tax rate as part of the annual budget building process in the late winter and early spring.
For Massengill and Stevens, they expect things to remain stable in terms of the county’s ratio.
“The sales ratio is not far from fair market value so enormous changes in value aren’t expected,” they explained. “There may be pockets of change, but not to the extent we have seen in past years from what we’ve seen in records kept by the office.”
They added that just because a property owner’s assessments increases or decreases doesn’t necessarily mean their real estate tax will rise or fall.
“Your real estate tax depends on both the assessed value and the County real estate property tax rate set each year by the Dinwiddie Board of Supervisors,” they remarked.
Those new assessment values will be effective in January of 2019.
Stevens and the county have posted a complete question-and-answer section on Dinwiddie’s governmental website break down the reassessment process and provide resources to property owners to quickly review their property card for accuracy and contact the Commissioner of Revenue’s office with questions.