Pittsylvania County

For some, an increase in property value (thanks to the recent reassessment in Pittsylvania County) is a good thing, especially if they’re looking to sell. For others, it just points to the chance it may cost them more in the long run by paying more taxes.

Caleb K. Ayers, Public Relations Manager for Pittsylvania County Administration, explains that Brightminds, Pittsylvania County's reassessment contractor, has been working for more than a year to gather data on each property, conduct market studies, and identify structures that were previously not on the county's records. Total real estate values across the county have increased approximately 20%, which can be attributed to several factors, but most notably market trends that are playing out across the country.

In a quote from PittCo happening’s podcast from Assistant Administrator Dave Arnold that summarizes the real estate market conditions, he explains, "The real estate market across the country has really seen what you might call a perfect storm recently. You know the supply of inventory has declined largely due to the pandemic, and people just weren't putting their homes on the market as much. The inventory was down, there was a higher demand because there were still folks that wanted to buy homes, but they had less inventory to choose from. A lot of times when this happens, developers and contractors simply increase the supply by building new homes and structures that therefore boost to supply back up, and then the supply and demand are back to more or less an equilibrium. However, during the pandemic, the cost of goods and materials has also increased, which has strained the potential for new construction, so the local market has really seen the same impact as what the country has seen. And so ultimately that's led to an increase in home prices, and if you look at sale values and market, how the market's done, real estate has been selling much higher, and it's on par with this approximately 20% increase that we're seeing here at Pittsylvania County."

In addition, more than 4,800 taxable structures were located, which represents approximately $100 million in new value. Any new development that happened in the past four years would also be a part of that 20% increase. Property owners can also use this interactive tool to view the proposed assessment values for every Pittsylvania County property.https://gis.pittgov.org/portal/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=1fcd3e90377a4319abef9ec06410f347

Seeing a large increase at what their property is valued at probably came as a shock when a letter went out in November giving the reassessment. “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw how much my property’s value had went up. Its condition is going down, not up. I can barely pay the bill now,” was a sentiment echoing around the county.

This periodic assessment is legally required by the Commonwealth of Virginia and updated values are determined through photographs, aerial images, and observations from a trained crew of property assessors. A number of larger localities do a reassessment every year rather than every four years like Pittsylvania County.

Ayers explains that drones were used to a certain extent with a number of structures that are not on record being discovered. In some instances, assessors were dispatched in person to examine the property.

He also points out that while some property did increase in value, some stayed the same or even dropped in value.

Representatives from Brightminds, the company that performed the reassessment for Pittsylvania County, will be available at the Community Center in Chatham from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday between December 6-17 to explain the process, answer questions, and help property owners understand their assessment. Extra time will be given on December 9 when they extend hours to 7:30 p.m. While property owners can walk in, it is recommended to schedule an appointment by calling 434-432-3581 or sending an email to Brightminds

Officials at Brightminds say they understand that the process can be confusing and they want to help property owners understand their property's assessment. Anyone who wants to formally dispute their assessment can do so through the Board of Equalization in the spring of 2022. Additional information about that process will be given after the informal hearing process.

The Board of Supervisors will set the tax rate in early 2022.

Ayers explains that the supervisors understand what a hard time the past couple of years has been on many citizens. Some have lost their jobs or forced to take lesser paying positions.

He shares that supervisors have some options available to them and don’t necessarily have to raise the tax rate. It could go up or down or possibly remain the same. “The COVID-19 impact could be taken into account. They have been vocal all year about finding alternative revenue. That’s the goal leading to this process,” he adds. “The actual tax levy (or annual amount charged) is unknown at this time. Once the Board of Equalization hears all appeals and updated values are finalized, the Board of Supervisors will have the opportunity to adjust the tax rate. Depending on the value change for individual properties and the tax rate that the board sets, some property owners will see tax increases, while others will actually see a tax decrease. For others, the updated value and rate may cancel each other out. Even if it is less than the current rate of $0.62 per every $100 in value, if the board of supervisors sets a tax rate that to leads an increase in revenue of at least 1%, that must be advertised to the public as a tax increase.” 

Ron Scearce, Vice-Chairman of the Board and Chairman of the Finance Committee, had this to say about the tax rate: "This board anticipated higher property assessments due to Brightminds' thorough work identifying and measuring every improved property in the county. Establishing fair market-based values for every property will allow us to reduce the Real Estate tax rate in the Spring of 2022. Citizens should understand that the Levy amount on the reassessment notice is most certainly higher than the levy to be established before tax bills go out in May."

Some citizens are not happy with the reassessment team making assumptions that the interior of the home matches the outside. That being said, Pittsylvania County staff sent letters to the public encouraging them to request an in-person visit if they felt it would be to their benefit. Some of the homes might not be as nice inside as the outside, thereby causing the value to go up when it’s not justified.

“This reassessment process is extremely important for ensuring that all of our property owners pay their fair share of taxes. We have gone with a completely different reassessment process this year to ensure that the results are as accurate as possible.” - Bob Warren, Chairman of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors.

Earlier in the year, some hard feelings erupted when a “poorly worded letter that was sent out from Pittsylvania County regarding the reassessment process implied that the reassessment team would visit every property in-person and request to view the interior of every structure.”  Pittsylvania County then issued an apology and clarification letter, which was sent out to property owners. They made it clear the Pittsylvania County reassessment team CANNOT enter your home UNLESS you invite them in. They would never enter your home without your direct invitation. 

When asked if the county had received a lot of letters from unhappy citizens, Akers responded, “I'm not sure if there is an estimate on how many communications the county and Brightminds have directly received, but I know that the majority of the concerns are about the percentage of change between the 2018 and 2022 values and the perceived tax increase associated with that. To address the concerns about property values, Brightminds will be available at the Community Center for appeals meetings from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. December 6-17. (They will also be available until 7:30 p.m. on December 9). While walk-ins will be accepted when possible, those who are interested are strongly encouraged to schedule a meeting via phone (434-432-3581) or email (pittcoappeals@brightmindsvyw.com). Brightminds' staff is processing appointment requests as quickly as possible. If the real estate owner leaves this meeting unsatisfied, they will be able to file a formal appeal with the Board of Equalization. The exact timeline for doing that will be published soon.”

Just a reminder, the notices mailed on November 19 are not bills; all property owners had already received bills for the second installment of 2021 real estate taxes earlier in November. Those bills are due in December. The reassessement notices simply informed real estate owners of their property's updated value that will be used for taxation purposes for the next four years. The tax rate applicable to the new valuation will not be determined until April 2022.

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