Montgomery County assessments remain flat

After gains of more than 30 percent for three straight reassessments, preliminary figures show a 3 percent growth.

| Katelyn Polantz

katelyn.polantz@roanoke.com, 381-1669

CHRISTIANSBURG -- Property values in Montgomery County have remained flat in the new county-wide reassessment, halting a steady climb in property assessments over the past 15 years.

County real estate increased by 3 percent, according to preliminary reassessment estimates for 2011 provided Monday night to supervisors.

Assessors may tweak that number in the coming months, and changes in value may vary greatly from neighborhood to neighborhood and street to street, they said.

The values are much steadier than the last reassessment and compared with housing markets elsewhere in the United States, said county assessor Tom Bland.

"Some areas are going to show healthy gains; some areas are going to show declines," said County Administrator Craig Meadows on Monday. "In the old days, mostly you saw gains."

Real estate values stagnated instead of fell, as some predicted, because organizations such as hospitals and universities anchor Montgomery County, Bland said.

Values also held while new home buyers benefited from a tax-incentive program in 2009. When the $8,000 tax credit from the federal government ended, home values in Montgomery County declined slightly.

Appariased values are determined largely by land and home sale prices.

Also, large, empty areas of land increased in value more than residential properties. For instance, assessors said two tracts of land sold for almost three times their assessed values.

A county-wide reassessment is held every four years.

In 2007, property in Montgomery County increased in value by 34 percent, according to the county budget. Four years before that, in 2003, it increased by 34 percent. In 1999, reassessment values grew by 29 percent.

The county doesn't know yet if it will need to adjust tax rates to stay revenue-neutral, said spokeswoman Ruth Richey.

The county's real estate tax is 74 cents per $100 assessed value, or $851 a year for a median-priced home worth $115,000. The county foresees about $50 million in revenue from real estate taxes this year, Richey said.

In the past, when property assessments grew by a third, county administrators had to drop the tax rate by more than 10 cents to keep revenues the same.

County staff members will determine the change in revenue, and then the board of supervisors will adjusts the tax rate accordingly.

Land-use changes will impact farming property

Values for agricultural property will increase in 2011 by about $140 per acre, to $440 per acre on average, as part of changes to the county's land-use value program. The changes will keep acreage in Montgomery County valued at less than in nearby localities.

Land in the program is not assessed and instead falls into one of eight soil classes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture determines these soil qualities, and the county sets the land values for each. Property owners are then taxed based on those values.

Acreage values were lowered by the former Commissioner of the Revenue Sharon Gilbert between 2007 and 2010. Next year's values will revert to what they were before then, said current Commissioner Alice Jones.

Class one soil, which is the highest quality soil, will be worth $840 an acre next year, compared with $570 currently. Class eight soil, of the lowest quality, will increase from $30 to $50 per acre in value. Forest land will increase by about $80 per acre, from $220 to $300.

More than 36,000 notices will be mailed next week

Property owners should receive their reassessments after Oct. 12, when the county mails about 36,500 notices.

Representatives from Wampler-Eanes Appraisal Group LTD, which conducted the assessment, will begin to meet with property owners who dispute their apparaisals Nov. 1.

The assessors will hold some hearings on Saturdays and in the evenings. Property owners may call the reassessment office at 381-6800 or visit the website reassessment.montva.com.