BOTETOURT – Botetourt County’s Happy New Year to its citizens will be the 2010 real estate reassessment notices, which are scheduled to be mailed in January.

In previous reassessment years, home and property owners have sometimes found tax values increased by 30 percent or more.

While that likely won’t be the case this time, property values have not declined like national economic conditions may have indicated.

“I don’t expect the overall increases to be anything like the last two or three reassessments,” Commissioner of the Revenue Jay Etzler said during a break at the Board of Supervisors meeting on December 22. “But there have been some increases on land values. Housing has seen some decreases in sales.”

The supervisors heard an update on the reassessment but no one gave an estimate of land values. However, County Administrator Jerry Burgess warned the supervisors to expect less of a percentage increase in value than in previous years. “We will not see the reassessment value increases we have traditionally seen,” he said during a presentation on the county budget. “We believe it will be an increase, but it will be less.”

Property reassessments, which in Botetourt are completed every four years, are mandated by state law. The county hired Wampler-Eanes Appraisal Group in July 2008 to reassess real estate values. The project cost more than $330,000.

The county’s real estate tax rate, which the supervisors establish each spring, is based on 100 percent of fair market value. Currently the tax rate is 65 cents per $100 value. The tax rate is the number that actually impacts residents and what they pay on the value of their property.

Reassessment values are based on land and housing sales. The appraisers review sales on similar property to arrive at fair market value. Etzler told the supervisors that the appraisal firm would not make final valuation determinations until the very end of the year in order to take advantage of the most recent housing sales values.

After the reassessment notices have been mailed, landowners who want to challenge the reassessment value will have the opportunity to make an appeal.

They may do this by appealing directly to Wampler-Eanes Appraisal Group during hearings tentatively scheduled for the last week of January and the first week of February at Greenfield Education and Training Center. Appointments may be scheduled by telephone, fax, email or by walking in during scheduled hours. Details on the hearings will be mailed with the reassessment notices.

After those hearings have taken place, citizens who remain unhappy with their reassessment value may appeal to the Board of Equalization. Those hearings are expected to be held in March.

Citizens may then appeal to the Botetourt County Circuit Court if they want to continue their challenge.

The county offers several forms of tax relief for its citizens. Lands devoted to agricultural, horticultural, forest or open space uses may be placed in a special category and landowners who qualify and enroll their property will be taxed as a reduced land use rate. Re-enrollment forms for landowners who have previously enrolled in one of those programs will be mailed in January, too, so they may participate in 2010.

Qualifying elderly and disabled property owners may also apply for real estate tax relief for their residence and up to 1.25 acres of land. Elderly landowners are those over the age of 65 who meet specific income and net worth requirements.  Re-enrollment forms will be mailed to those already qualified for the upcoming year. New applicants can find the form at http://botetourt.org/treasurer/documents/elderly_form.pdf.

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