Too high or too low

Published 6:17 pm Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Reassessments tend to make everybody unhappy

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Isle of Wight residents are upset.

Some are upset because their property assessment went up. Some are upset because it went down. Those who are happy are likely keeping it to themselves. 

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William Havrila in Carrollton was surprised to see the value of his property go up $66,000 since the last reassessment, or 25 percent. 

Havrilla plans to appeal because he fears the increase will be reflected in his next real estate tax bill. 

Others have seen their residential property go down, including some homes in the Moonefield area of Smithfield. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Some residents see an assessment as a tool used by the county to get more money from its residents, others see it as a ploy to pay for the proposed youth correctional center. 

It doesn’t work that way, said Isle of Wight County Commissioner of Revenue Gerald Gwaltney. 

A resident’s real estate tax bill does not correlate to the same percentage that the assessment goes up, or down, he said.

Virginia localities are required to adjust the current tax rate to be “revenue neutral,” that is, if the county experiences an overall increase in real estate values, it does not automatically cash in on the extra money, said Gwaltney.

By law, the county gets to keep the taxes generated by 101 percent of the current assessment. If a reassessment increases a property’s value by more than 1 percent, the additional tax has to be rolled back, said Gwaltney.

Rolling back the tax rate does not take into account the need to raise the real estate tax rate for other things, such as new projects, said Gwaltney.  

If the county needs to raise its tax rate — beyond the assessment adjustment — it would have to advertise that intention, said Gwaltney. 

In this case, residential real estate tax rates went up an average of 5 percent. Isle of Wight gets to keep 1 percent of that increase, and by law would have to reduce the tax rate to offset the remaining 4 percent, said Gwaltney. 

If the county needs more revenue to pay for new projects or expenses, a separate situation from the reassessment, it would have to advertise the proposed increase, said Gwaltney. 

Isle of Wight County’s current real estate tax rate is 85 cents per $100 in value. 

Reassessment values vary

To put this year’s reassessment in perspective, housing values had remained fairly flat since 2012 until this year. In 2012, housing values in some parts of Isle of Wight, such as Eagle Harbor, went down by 20 percent, pushing some residents ‘underwater’ on their property. 

The last time residents saw a large increase in their property values was in 2006 when the average assessment went up by nearly 42 percent. Rapidly rising housing prices at the time caused the Board of Supervisors to conduct reassessments every two years so that residents would not experience another shock like 2006. However, 2006 was quickly followed by the Great Recession, and by 2008, values had dropped an average of 5-6 percent. Because of that, as well as unrelated budget woes, the Board returned to a four-year reassessment cycle. 

How assessments are made

Gary Eanes with Wampler-Eanes Appraisal Group said the software used by Isle of Wight allows his firm to break the county down into neighborhoods.

The software uses a table based on what it would cost to build the house new and then works backward, running sales to assessment ratios by neighborhood, said Eanes. 

Eanes said an assessment leans to the conservative end, while an appraisal for a refinancing, for example, would tend to go in the other direction. 

Changes in a home’s value can be due to recent sales in the neighborhood, the condition of the house, renovations or additions, as well as general wear and tear, said Eanes. 

For example, sales of smaller homes, from 1,000 to 1,800 square feet, have become strong in Isle of Wight, he said.

Eanes said residents are welcome to appeal an assessment, but should keep in mind that once it’s reviewed, it can go up, down or stay the same. 

Eanes gave the example of a home in Smithfield that was being appealed. The last assessment was about $200,000 and the latest assessment went up to $227,000. Houses in the neighborhood had recently sold for around $250,000 — higher than the assessment and will be a factor in the appeal, he said. 

When it comes to farmland, the assessment looks at what land is selling at per acre, and there were some areas in the southern part of Isle of Wight County that went up, said Eanes, adding that those properties are also in the land use program, which limits the taxable value. 

The price of farmland is up everywhere in Virginia, said Eanes. 

Tax relief

Tax relief or deferral is available for elderly and disabled residents who are low-income and age 65 and older and meet certain qualifications. The applications are filed between Jan. 1 and June 30 of the tax year and can be renewed annually. 

For more information, call the Commissioner of Revenue’s Office at 365-6222.

For information on assessments, go to the Isle of Wight County website at, scroll to the bottom of the home page and click on assessments and “start your search.” Properties can be searched by address, property owner’s name or parcel I.D.  {/mprestriction}