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Middlesex considers regional reassessments

by Larry S. Chowning

Middlesex, along with several other area counties, is considering a regional real estate reassessment program, said county administrator Charles Culley at a county board of supervisors meeting on July 7.

Culley said if a regional program is going to “fly,” each county will have to agree to start putting money into a regional reassessment program fund. 

There have been numerous attempts over the years for a regional reassessment, instead of each county having an individual reassessment as is currently the case.

Culley said the regional approach has not worked in the past because each county had different reassessment schedules.

“We just finished a reassessment and some of the counties are starting theirs this year,” he said.  “We’ve got to all agree on how this is going to work.”

The most recent Middlesex reassessment was completed a short time before the current recession and before real estate values began tumbling across the nation. Middlesex had over 1,000 complaints to its Board of Equalization concerning the reassessment.

“It is complicated,” said supervisor Jack Miller. “What amazes me is that every county in the PDC (Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission) has the same complaint with their reassessments. People (appraisers) reassess our property who do not know anything about our area.

“If we had a regional assessor, we would not control him so to speak, but we would have some say in hiring someone who knows what’s going on with real estate in our area,” said Miller. “If we had someone who worked at it all the time, and did the surrounding counties too, then we would get a fair grasp on what’s really going on with real estate in the county.

“We’ve had unbelievable discrepancies in property values,” continued Miller. “We’ve had million dollar properties, and the next door neighbor is worth almost nothing.”

Culley agreed saying, “There were plenty of screw-ups in the reassessment. No one is happy when their taxes go up and there were individual problems, but what we (counties) want is a good overall fair assessment.”

Culley indicated the current recession is impacting real estate sales in Middlesex. “There are not a whole lot of sales going on right now,” he said. “People are hanging on to their property, if they can afford to.”

He made it clear a new reassessment during this recession would not help county taxpayers, because there have been so few sales that high values paid before the recession would still be the guiding force determining the value of local real estate.

“What about foreclosures?” asked Miller. “Don’t they tell you something about what’s happening?”

“There just hasn’t been a whole lot of that [in Middlesex],” responded Culley. “People who own waterfront property are not selling because they are not going to give it away, unless they are forced to.”

Miller indicated that a cottage on the Rappahannock River next to a cottage he owns faced foreclosure. “I don’t remember that happening very much,” he said.

Culley reiterated that there have been some foreclosures, but it is not widespread throughout the county.

The counties involved in the proposed regional reassessment are Middlesex, King William, King and Queen, Mathews and Essex. 

The Town of Urbanna will not be involved in the regional reassessment program because the town uses county real estate assessment figures to formulate its tax rate, said town administrator Lewis Filling this week.

Filling also indicated the town does not pay the county anything for using the assessment information.

Urbanna property owners pay the same county real estate tax rate as those living outside of town limits, while also paying town real estate taxes. 

posted 07.15.2009

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