BEDFORD — Bedford County residents wishing to appeal the results of a recent county property value reassessment can debate the market value of their property with a court-appointed board tasked with considering the assessment’s findings.
The Bedford County Board of Equalization began meeting this week to consider complaints of inequalities between the assessed value of properties in Bedford County and the market value of the same properties.
“Every four years when we have a reassessment, the public has an opportunity to appeal the results before the county starts assessing those taxes on their properties,” said Julie Creasy, Bedford County commissioner of revenue. “Any property owner can bring evidence that their property has been valued at more than its market value and request that it be lowered. The reassessment is not the final determination on that number.”
Creasy said about 70 county residents have requested to meet with the Board of Equalization during their hearings, which started Tuesday morning.
“We have only had that many people file for an appeal so far,” Creasy said. “But anyone that wishes to meet with the board can make an appointment by the end of this month.”
The board, which met this week, also is scheduled to meet from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 12, 13, 14, 20 and 21, and Sept. 10, 11 and 12 at the Bedford County Administration Building, 122 E. Main St.
Creasy said some residents have voiced concerns about the valuation of their property since the Bedford County Board of Supervisors voted to adopt a property tax rate of 50 cents per $100 of valuation following the results of the reassessment. Finished in February, it listed the total value of property in Bedford County at about $10.2 billion, an increase of about $580 million from the last assessment four years ago.
“That is based on about 50,000 parcels of land in Bedford County,” Creasy said.
Because of the increase in property values, the former property tax rate of 52 cents per $100 of valuation would set the county’s general fund — Bedford County’s primary operating fund — at about $111 million this year, about $5 million more than last year’s budget. An equalized tax rate of 50 cents per $100 of valuation, which compensates for the increase in property value, would put the general fund at $109.3 million, a $2.5 million increase.
Many residents — who spoke in favor of an equalized property tax rate during the April 22 Board of Supervisors meeting — said they still would be paying more in property taxes at an equalized tax rate because of the increase in the assessed value of their homes and questioned the results of the assessment.
Forest resident Gary McCoy said the value of his home increased about $69,000 after the assessment.
“I went to the public hearing to find out why,” McCoy said. “They told me it was because I had a new roof on my house. That roof is 11 years old and needs repairs on parts of it. These numbers are not based on real market values and I’m not sure where they are coming up with them.”
Another Forest resident, Nate Boyer, said his property’s assessed value increased by more than 20%.
“Even at an equalized rate, I’m going to be paying a lot more,” Boyer said. “Even if it is not an increase in tax rates, it sure enough isn’t a tax break.”
Don Thomas — the president of Wingate Appraisal Service, which was contracted by Bedford County to perform the assessment — said the assessors consider a number of different factors when determining the tax valuation of a property.
“It’s not about just determining the value of a single property,” Thomas said. “This process is really about trying to equalize the properties in an area.”
Thomas said his company visually inspects properties as well as coordinating with local governments to see what building permits have been submitted since the most recent reassessment.
“That is one of the things that is factored in to the reassessment value,” he said.
Another thing that assessors look at during the year-long assessment process is growth in a particular area — like the Forest area in Bedford County — and how that growth has effected property values.
“One of the things that is most important is location, location and location,” Thomas said. “Some areas of a county will grow faster than others — which brings more businesses and amenities to that part of the county. That factors to the value.”
However, Thomas said assessments are not always accurate and the Board of Equalization of a municipality is designed to look at any case and either increase, decrease or maintain the value determined during the reassessments.
“Of course it is not a perfect process,” Thomas said. “That’s why there is a board to review our findings and determine if our assessment was off. We make ourselves available to the board during this entire process to help it make decisions.”
Creasy said the five- member board — which is comprised of local realtors, surveyors and engineers — is sworn in by a district court judge.
“They are selected much like a jury,” Creasy said. “These are local experts who know the market value of homes in the area, and they can look at the evidence and determine if the tax assessment was fair.”
Creasy said anyone wishing to appeal to the Board of Equalization, which hears appeals in 30-minute hearings, can call (540) 586-7626 by 5 p.m. Aug. 30.