NK officials seek state law changes for assessments
In the aftermath of a recent legal challenge to New Kent’s 2008 real estate reassessment, county officials are out to change state law dealing with property tax levies and the reliability of assessments.
The county’s Board of Supervisors is considering the proposals for inclusion in their annual legislative agenda package that is forwarded to local representatives in the state’s General Assembly. A final package is to be ready before legislators’ short session begins in January.
County Attorney Jeff Summers unveiled the proposed package during supervisors’ Oct. 28 work session. The proposals are among close to two dozen issues that county officials want to see addressed on the state level, but there are no guarantees that any of the requests will be acted on by legislators.
Last July, a local citizens group, the New Kent County Citizens Coalition, challenged the county’s reassessment in New Kent Circuit Court. As required by state law, county Commonwealth’s Attorney Linwood Gregory filed the suit on behalf of the group after petitions were presented bearing at least one percent of registered county voters.
The challenge was dismissed after the judge in the matter ruled that the state law cited in the suit does not pave the way to invalidate assessments. The law pertains only to tax levies imposed by local governments, the judge added.
Now, New Kent officials are asking legislators to add a clause to the law clarifying that it deals only with tax levies and not challenges to real estate values. They are also proposing that the same state law be amended so that future challenges must be accompanied with “credible evidence” that a tax levy is illegal.
“What we’re saying is give me a good faith reason for proceeding,” Summers told supervisors.
The second New Kent proposal deals with state law that outlines “measures of reliability” for real estate assessments. State law for now lists only a current assessment-to-sales ratio standard. New Kent is proposing to add two more standards — a coefficient of dispersion, which measures equalization among similar properties, and a price-related differential, which measures whether low-priced properties are fairly assessed as opposed to high-priced ones.
“The idea is to put an upper and lower boundary on an assessment,” Summers told the board.
Also, the county proposes a definition of “fair market value” (the price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under any compulsion to buy or sell and both having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts) for inclusion in state law governing assessments.
“One of our thrusts is to go back and try to fix what we see is wrong with the assessment process,” Summers said.