Tax statute is ‘mish-mash’

Published 12:18 pm Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

Regarding the letter “Surry doesn’t need tax hike” in the June 15 edition, leaving the Surry County real property tax at its present rate of 77 cents per $100 of assessed property value in the face of the 14.4% average real estate assessment increase would saddle the average property owner with a 14.4% real property tax increase.

When this kind of thing happens, state law requires that the county lower the tax rate enough to offset the assessment increase so that there is no increase in the taxpayer’s tax bite. That lowered rate is called the “equalized” rate, which in Surry’s case would be 67.31 cents per hundred. The law goes on to say that the county may add to that equalized rate at its discretion, but it must advertise this and have public hearings about it.

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In the present case it seems that the county wants to add to the lowered equalized rate (it needs the revenue, of course), but not return to the higher existing rate of 77 cents per hundred. This may be what is bothering letter writer Dianne Cheek. She can be forgiven; the language and math steps in the statute governing this calculation are an unforgivable and unnecessary mish-mash of obfuscation, and even the municipal clerks who have to do the math get confused, and the published results are often inaccurate.


Dave Goodridge