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Smyth leaders give nod to more frequent real estate tax assessments

Smyth leaders give nod to more frequent real estate tax assessments

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Real estate tax reassessments may come a bit more frequently for Smyth County taxpayers.

Earlier this month, the Smyth County Board of Supervisors gave a nod to county staff to take steps toward conducting reassessments every four years. The next reassessment would be effective Jan. 1, 2024.

This change is expected to make any tax increases that occur easier for citizens to bear as they should be smaller than those that that come with the current six-year reassessment schedule.

For reassessments, the county hires specialized appraisal firms to assess the value of each of Smyth’s 22,000 land parcels. That effort isn’t inexpensive.

According to Assistant County Administrator Lisa Richardson, the 2020 reassessment cost $291,124.05. The fees were paid over three fiscal years beginning in 2018-19 as the assessment can take a year or more to complete. The 2020 reassessment took about 18 months to finish.

While the cost to the county would increase with more frequent assessments, County Administrator Shawn Utt said the upticks in revenue from increased property values are expected to cover the extra expenses.

With a four-year schedule, the supervisors OK’d county staff getting the work under way to get proposals and estimates from appraisal firms. According to Utt, the Mount Rogers Planning District Commission will issue a Request for Proposals to hire a firm to work regionally.

During the supervisors’ discussion of the issue, they did confirm that if economic or other conditions, such a real estate market fluctuations, aren’t favorable for a reassessment at a four-year interval, it can be delayed another year or two.

State law caps the reassessment period at six years. It is also state law that requires each locality to periodically perform a general reassessment to determine each property’s fair market value and its equalization in value to similar properties.

Appraisers use data from Smyth County and the surrounding area to determine property values.

Smyth County has gone back and forth between four- and six-year intervals. In 2009, officials switched from a six-year schedule to every four years.

In 2016, they again returned to the six-year schedule. In that decision, they heeded the recommendation of Commissioner of the Revenue Jeff Richardson, who noted at that time that since the recession of 2008 and 2009, Smyth County’s property values had not experienced strong growth.

Prior to the recession, Richardson said, Smyth County properties could experience 3% or 4% growth every year. With a six-year reassessment period at the time, he said, a taxpayer could see a 27% jump in his tax bill.

However, the commissioner said, for the reassessment that took effect in 2014, only a .003 percent increase was determined.

This year, the supervisors again followed Richardson’s recommendation to shorten the reassessment period.

With low interest rates, the housing market has exploded during the last year.

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