Amherst County residents who own property have recently received notices of updated real estate values as part of a countywide reassessment.
Notices of the newly established values were scheduled to be mailed Oct. 4, according to County Administrator Dean Rodgers’ report to the Amherst County Board of Supervisors at its Oct. 1 meeting. The new real estate values take effect Jan. 1.
Wampler-Eanes Appraisal Group, of Daleville, began the reassessment process in July 2018 and the field work is complete, according to the county. While Rodgers told supervisors final figures are not yet available, the board should expect an overall increase in real estate values.
“... We’ve been told to anticipate overall — some properties go up, some go down — but overall a 4% increase in the total,” Rodgers said to supervisors. “So it will go up a little bit.”
Hearing dates for residents to appeal to the Amherst County Board of Equalization are scheduled for the weeks of Oct. 14-18 and Oct. 28-Nov. 1, according to Rodgers’ report. Written appeals must be submitted by Nov. 1.
Assistant County Administrator David Proffitt told supervisors after those hearings Wampler-Eanes would submit in writing the final numbers.
“These hearings can have an impact,” Proffitt said of appeals.
The county conducts property reassessments every six years with the most recent one taking effect in 2014.
The board has yet not begun formally deliberating the fiscal year 2021 budget yet but Rodgers already has publicly indicated he intends to propose a tax increase for what he has described as a growing list of county needs. The county’s rate was last increased in 2016 by 5 cents to 61 cents per $100 of assessed value in part to support economic development and a major infrastructure project for Amherst County’s public schools.
Rodgers said during a Sept. 30 board retreat meeting he abhors raising taxes but the county needs more revenue.
According to figures presented during that meeting, the county’s expenses will start outpacing revenues this year and the trend is slated to continue through the majority of the next decade.
To offset the anticipated affect, the county recently started a “future fund” for long-term needs and the first deposit into it was $328,303 with more money needed for additional years, according to a handout on the county’s finances during the retreat. The current projected general fund unobligated balance for reserve spending is $14.5 million
The board also discussed demographics and challenges regarding its ability to draw in more money through population growth. The county’s population is 31,819, according to data presented during the retreat.
“We’ve held our own,” Rodgers said of the county’s population.
The Central Virginia Training Center, a longtime major employer for the county, has a dwindling workforce as the Madison Heights property heads to closure in 2020. County officials have said the roughly 350-acre campus has major economic potential to produce an economic boost to the Lynchburg area if redeveloped properly and doing so is a major regional focus.
The board also spoke of the need to attract more business and said opening up potential for hotels is a priority.
“They’ve got to have a reason to stay here,” Rodgers said of finding ways to make the county appealing for new hotels.
Rodgers said he has contacted major grocery chains about coming to Amherst and has been told the county doesn’t have the demographics to support them. The county has 14,182 housing units and about 80% is owner-occupied while the median household income in the county is $49,677, according to date presented to supervisors.
Nearly 61% of households have a broadband internet subscription, a priority the county has tackled recently in making that more accessible to rural areas.
One area Rodgers said needs addressing in the upcoming budget talks is the need for salary adjustments. The county has 208 full-time workers, between 80 and 100 part-time and according to a 2018 survey 1% to 34% of those jobs, depending on the position, is below the regional market. The county would have to spend more than $400,000 to bring those salaries to where they should be, Rodgers has said.
Amherst County has seen recent staff turnover as high as 19% and the average length of county employment is 8.49 years, according to a staffing report supervisors recently report. The document described the county government as a training ground for larger municipalities as officials have discussed the need to keep quality employees.
The county changed insurance providers to balance its current budget, a move that some employees publicly opposed.
Bill Peters, a county resident who regularly attends board meetings, said he isn’t opposed to a tax increase as long as the county places education as its top priority.
“Unless you do that, I don’t support [a] tax increase,” Peters said. “Public education has been underfunded for decades. It’s a national disgrace.”
The county said in an Oct. 2 news release that when Wampler-Eanes was collecting data and assigning assessed values, the firm considered properties’ location, views, access to highways, shopping and schools, construction costs and quality, condition and building types in each neighborhood and throughout the county.
After the reassessments are mailed, computer printouts showing the 2020 assessed values will be available for public inspection, according to the release. A copy of the printout will be available in the Commissioner of the Revenue Office at 100 Goodwin St. in Amherst.
Property owners who believe their assessment is over market or out of line with similar properties may appeal and should schedule a hearing. Instructions for scheduling hearings are on the notices, the county said. Percentage of increase above the old assessed value is not, by itself, grounds for an appeal, according to the county.
Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.
Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.