Botetourt County, Virginia

Real estate values in Botetourt County have increased an average of 8.9 percent since 2006, the last time the county reassessed real estate for tax purposes, according to Wampler-Eanes Appraisal Group.

The new reassessment is half the increase in 2006 and one-third the increase in 2002.

In 2002, real estate assessments in Botetourt County increased 16.5 percent as a result of the county’s four-year property reassessment. In 2006, the overall reassessment increase was 26.4 percent.

“It’s definitely a reflection of the economy,” said Gary Eanes, the professional assessor contracted by the county to conduct the reassessment.

Wampler-Eanes began mailing reassessment notices to county property owners Monday. Tuesday afternoon, the company released overall data for the county. Residential real estate increased 8 percent on average, and commercial and industrial properties increased 10 percent. Rural land values rose the most of all property types since 2006, increasing 18 percent.

“These values reflect current land and improvement values based on actual sales through December 2009,” according to Eanes. He and his staff researched all real estate sales in the county and inspected every house and business in the county to derive the new values, he said.

While some types of real estate have fallen in value in recent years, between 2006 and the end of 2008 property values increased healthily. The net result, said Eanes, are increased assessments for most property owners. Some owners will see a decrease in their property’s assessed value, however. It all depends on how much comparable properties have recently sold for, according to Eanes.

Property owners who believe their reassessments are incorrect or unjustified can appeal them by scheduling a hearing with Wampler-Eanes staff. Hearings will be held from January 25 through February 5 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. in Room 124 on the lower level at the Greenfield Education and Training Center.

Written appeals may be faxed to (540) 992-5238 or emailed to reval@rbnet.com. Hearing dates, times and instructions are included in reassessment notices to owners.

In addition to an opportunity for appeal before Wampler-Eanes, property owners will also have an opportunity to challenge reassessments before the County’s Board of Equalization. Consisting of five county residents appointed by the Circuit Court, the Board of Equalization will hear appeals once Wampler-Eanes has completed its appeals process and notified property owners of any adjustments to their reassessments.

The Board of Equalization is scheduled to meet on February 18 to approve its appeal schedule. The Board will publish its schedule in the media and on Botetourt County’s website, www.botetourt.org.

Any property owners not satisfied with their reassessment following appeals to Wampler-Eanes and to the Board of Equalization may, thirdly, take their case to the Botetourt County Circuit Court.

While lower-than-customary reassessment increases may not completely relieve property owners concerned about higher tax bills come December, what if any impact the reassessment will have on those bills remains to be determined.

The Board of Supervisors, which is prohibited by state law from having any involvement in determining or influencing reassessments, will consider whether to adjust the County’s real estate tax rate in April, after it learns how State government budget cuts and a continued sluggish economy will impact County finances. The Board may also consider changes to tax relief programs available to qualifying taxpayers.

Real estate tax relief is available to owners of certain land devoted to agricultural, horticultural, forest or open space uses. Qualifying and enrolled properties are taxed at reduced “land use” rates that are significantly less than the County’s general tax rate. The Commissioner of the Revenue will be mailing notices in late January to property owners currently enrolled in the program to reapply in order to continue their participation in the program for 2010.

Qualifying elderly and disabled property owners currently may have between 20 percent and 90 percent of the real estate tax on their residence and up to 1.25 acres of land exempted from county tax.

Reassessment books prepared by Wampler-Eanes and containing reassessment information for all parcels in Botetourt County are available for public inspection at the Circuit Court Clerk’s office in Fincastle and at the county’s Blue Ridge and Buchanan library branches.

Upon completion, the reassessment will be reviewed by the Virginia Department of Taxation to ensure it was conducted in compliance with State law. Failure to comply could result in the withholding of State revenue from the County.

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