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Reassessment anticipates decreased property values by 33 percent

Blue Ridge Mass Appraisal is two-thirds of the way done with the fieldwork necessary to complete Fluvanna County’s property reassessment, and the numbers do not bode well for Fluvanna. The last time a reassessment was done was in 2006, before the housing market crash.

“Countywide, the ratio of sales to what the old assessment was, the properties are selling for about 67 percent of what the old assessment is worth,” said Matt Hickey of Blue Ridge Mass Appraisal at Wednesday’s (Apr. 18) Board of Supervisor’s Meeting. “There will be a drop in the assessment.”

Board of Supervisors Chairman Shaun Kenney clarified, “that’s a 33 percent drop.”

The collective gasp amongst the audience in the courtroom was unmistakable.

“The impact of the decline isn’t quite as grave in the rest of the county as it is in Lake Monticello,” said Hickey.

Kenney seemed irritated as he pressed Hickey with more questions.

“Nelson County recently rejected your reassessment, can you explain what went wrong?” said Kenney.
“It’s the same situation there. They were relying on Wintergreen as a large chunk of their tax revenue, and because of a drastic decline in property values they weren’t going to be getting as much money in taxes,” said Hickey.

“You believe that the reason why Nelson County rejected your assessment is because they didn’t like the numbers? And Cumberland County, same reason there?” said Kenney.

“We have some legal issues going on down there,” said Hickey.

“What further assurances can you give this board that your assessments will be accurate?” said Kenney.

“All we can go by is the statistical accuracy and see that our assessments come in line with our sales. That’s all we can do,” said Hickey. “At the end of the day our assessments should match what the homes are worth … right now you’re upside down here in the county.”

No Budget Vote Yet

Board members examine budget

Although the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors had planned to vote on a finalized budget for fiscal year 2013 at Wednesday’s (Apr. 18) meeting, no such vote took place.

“The Board of Supervisors is not prepared to vote on a budget this evening,” said Board Chair Shaun Kenney.

The vote was delayed because the  state budget had not been passed, putting budgets for localities on shaky ground. Later that day, the senate approved a final state budget, but not in time for the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors to review it and include the final state allocations in the voted upon budget tonight.

“I don’t like to postpone it, but I guess we don’t have any choice,” said Cunningham representative Don Weaver. The board voted unanimously to postpone the final budget vote for at least another two weeks.

“The senate of Virginia fell down on its constitutional responsibilities this week,” said Kenney. “I think we will simply have to deal with it when it comes, such are the consequences when Richmond fails to act.”

Fluvanna’s Capital Improvement Plan slashed dramatically, may affect schools

Just last week Fluvanna County’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) included $22.6 million in upgrades over the next five years, including anything from new radio equipment for the rescue squad to a pool at Pleasant Grove. On Wednesday (Apr. 18) the Board of Supervisors slashed the CIP down to bare bones public funding.

One by one, Board of Supervisors Chairman Shaun Kenney went down the list of CIP projects and placed most of them under a new category dubbed “public donation.”

“If those things are really important, we can ask the public that they fundraise for them,” said Supervisor Joe Chesser.

A number of items included in the Pleasant Grove master plan were moved from tax-dollar funding into “public donation” including an amphitheatre, athletic fencing, playground expansion, pool and spray ground, a structure for the farmer’s market, athletic field lighting and an intergenerational center.

“Are you all adding up all this money that we’re expecting local people to raise?” said Supervisor Mozell Booker.

“We just don’t have the tax payer dollars to spend. If they want it, they can fundraise for it,” said Supervisor Don Weaver.

The only projects not removed from the Capital Improvement Plan or added to “public donation” category were properties already in the county’s possession in need of improvement, such as the historic courthouse, and upgrades mandated by the state, like expanding the regional jail or fixing the Carysbrook wastewater treatment plant.

However, the board slowed its process of rapid-fire budget cutting when they approached the estimated $8 million in anticipated improvements to school buildings by the year 2014.

“If you walk into the middle school or the existing high school, you’ll see that they need much help,” said Chesser.

“But where is the money coming from?” said Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch.

“We’re not going to be borrowing money,” said Chesser.

“Then it’s not going to get done, is that what I’m hearing?” said Kenney.

“We’re not going to pay for it in cash and we’re not going to take out a bond. That’s like buying a Mercedes and saying, “I’ll worry about it when the first payment comes in,” said Ullenbruch.

“Which we did,” said Kenney, referring to the expensive new high school.

In the end, the board decided to wait to finalize the CIP until the next meeting when they will also vote on fiscal year 2013’s budget.

Photo by David Stemple.