05 May 2015
A quick look at the tax rate’s history only befuddles the issue. In 2013 the rate flew to 79.5 cents from 59.81 cents – yet somehow delivered a 2.3 percent tax cut to Fluvanna landowners. And in 2002 the rate dropped to 64 cents from 71 cents – yet hiked taxes by 10.3 percent. In 1994 taxes held steady at 63 cents from the preceding year – but landowners paid a whopping 25.5 percent more.
How then can residents ever hope to have an accurate understanding of Fluvanna’s tax rate history?
Throwing a wrench into the works of any straightforward analysis is the issue of reassessments.
The amount of real estate taxes landowners pay depends upon the value of their land – and any improvements they own, such as houses or barns. But property values change all the time.
State code requires that localities of Fluvanna’s population reassess land and home values every six years, though they are free to reassess more frequently, said Mel Sheridan, Fluvanna County commissioner of the revenue. And when counties reassess they must determine and publicize what’s called an “equalized rate.”
Without an equalized rate, if land values were to increase after a reassessment and the tax rate were to stay the same as the previous year, the county would suddenly collect more tax revenue. Likewise, if land values decreased after a reassessment and the tax rate remained the same, the county would receive less tax revenue.
While county governments are certainly free to raise and lower taxes, state code requires them to be explicit when it comes to reassessments. Counties can’t directly raise or lower taxes through adjusted property values. Instead, after a reassessment counties must publish the equalized rate – the tax rate that brings in the same amount of revenue as the previous year. If property values increase, the equalized rate must offset that difference by decreasing. If property values decrease, the equalized rate increases.
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