Crunching numbers: City omits short sales, foreclosures in averages

In a recent press release, the City of Charlottesville reported that 2012 assessments are down 1.22 percent overall, with existing residential properties declining an average of 3.08 percent. So how do we square this the city data to the Nest Realty 4th Quarter Market Report for 2011, which shows the average list price of a single-family home in the Charlottesville area decreasing 32.1 percent year-over-year?

Assessments, which are used by local governmentsto establish tax value, provide snapshots of property values as of January 1st. And tax value, a fixed figure unaffected by changes in interest rates or inventory, is determined in part by examining sales that have occurred within the market area.

A reporter decided to make a random sampling of 20 sales taken from the multiple listing system (MLS) for the period of May-October 2011, and the result reveals some intriguing information.

Seven of the MLS transactions reflect sales prices in excess of the current assessments, while the remaining 13 transactions show sales that occurred below the assessed values, all of them larger than the 3.08 percent government-noted residential decline. 

A closer look at the online records shows that 10 of these 13 lower-than-assessment sales were rated a "3." Part of an internal coding system used by the city assessor’s office, the numeral indicates that these 10 transactions are all considered "invalid" and were therefore excluded from the calculations that yielded the figures reported in the press release.

City Assessor Roosevelt Barbour explains that an invalid sale is anything that is not considered an arm’s-length transaction. For instance, sales from one family member to another or transfers involving estate-owned properties would be considered invalid and would be excluded from the pool of data used to determine assessments. Not all situations are quite so clear-cut, however. Sales in which realtors act as principals may also be considered invalid, depending on the particulars of the transaction and the interpretation of the assessor reviewing the file.

Invalid transactions also do not include foreclosures and short sales, even though these have became a major part of the local market– 20 percent according to Nest realtor Jim Duncan on his blogare also excluded from the official assessment calculations.

"I’d like to exclude the short sales in my market analyses," says Duncan, "but I’d probably be deemed incompetent by my profession, my clients and the market."

And here's a little surprise. Of the remaining seven transactions in the random sample– those in which sales price exceeded assessment– all were all considered valid.

To summarize, based on the random sample, the number of transactions reflecting a decrease in value was nearly double the number that reflected an increase, yet less than a quarter of these were deemed suitable for comparison purposes. This may help explain the miniscule decrease in value reported in the city’s press release as compared to the clear downward trend in value noted in the Nest report, but it may muddy the waters in other regards. 

Extrapolating from this admittedly small sample, how is it that the majority of last year’s transactions reflecting declining values were deemed unsuitable for comparison purposes while the majority of transactions supporting consistent values were considered valid?

According to the assessor’s office, determining how to code a particular transaction is up to the assessor conducting the review, a policy that appears to allow no small amount of subjectivity. It also calls for a significant amount of trust on the part of city residents, whose tax bills reflect these policy decisions even if the taxpayers are losing faith in the accuracy of assessment process. 

But there’s little question that it benefits the city coffers.

#

–online story updated 7:52am Friday, March 2 with quote and factoid from Duncan

59 comments

It is a way for them to hold onto revenue--they keep values artificially high by excluding most transactions that show a decrease--if not illegal, it is certainly unethical. Foreclosures and short sales affect market values of the homes around them and I can tell you right now my home went down in value(according to an appraisal) far more than the city assessment shows.

Story updated with quote and datapoint from Jim Duncan.--hawes spencer

State law requires the assessment to reflect market value. The market includes foreclosures and short sales. So these assessments are breaking the law. There are some seriously warped things going on it that office. Remember the historic coal tower that the City sold to a developer for $10,000, who broke his promise to develop it and then flipped the raw property for $1 million? Well that property is now owned by a company controlled by Coran Capshaw--and the coal tower is assessed at zero. Nothing. That huge cement structure is not taxed. It is time for fed up real estate owners to refuse to pay ridiculous and arbitrary taxes and sue the city to force it to comply with the law.

the sad truth of it all.

elected and appointed city officials who
spend time on peace resolutions; on deer surveys
on diversity commissions ; can't or won't deal with
the real matters at hand that have driven the middle class
from charlottesville

This type of numbers fudging benefits budgets--it does not benefit buyers or sellers. And it is infuriating to home owners. It's not confined to C'ville, however--it's just that many localities don't get popped for the practice.

What about Albemarle County? In the past has been transparent about *not* including foreclosures as part of property tax assessments.

Until very recently, Albemarle County had a "Type of Sale" codifier for each property tax record on its public website. Foreclosures were marked as "Invalid."

However, that codifier has disappeared from the Gisweb. So does Albemarle County include distressed sales in its assessments now, or not?

Thanks for the good reporting.

Dave Norris and Dede Smith tried, biggest scam to come down the pike -$200 million new dam/pipeline plan, but I agree, the others are fiscally irresponsible and this assessment mess needs investigating.

Wait till you see your next utility bill if you're upset about taxes, and don't be fooled when they tell you water rates are coming down --do you believe that you can borrow spend $200 million and not raise rates -the dams just the beginning.

Why am I not surprised? On the other hand, I bet you'd find way worse ethics in places like Fluvanna. The think is, anyone that has any knowledge of statistics *and* doesn't have an agenda has now realized that virtually all 'official' stats are cooked and ready to serve. I mean, look at the Federal unemployment figures! They are absolutely not representative of the marketplace. Or the inflation rate, which excludes so many realworld elements, it's value only lies in the hands of policy wonks, big banks and big media, dutifully serving the happy sheeple.

This is an ongoing swindle, perpetrated by the City Assessor's office in collusion with city management. Why does Charlottesville divide a city of 10 square miles into 47 assessment districts, while Albemarle County uses only 7 assessment districts for 700 square miles?

Here's a report from 2010 on how Charlottesville taxpayers are being "Fleeced By The Barbour": http://www.schillingshow.com/2010/03/16/fleeced-by-the-barbour-charlotte...

This is common all around. And yes, fair market value includes all sales. It is a rather obvious motivation. I think that the government counts on the "frog in the water" idea. If everyone's taxes go up a bit each year, that is a huge cumulative boon for the county. However, the individual taxpayer just complains for a couple of weeks then goes back to life. Next year, same thing.

When you add to this that many residents in this area are from large metro areas where the annual RE tax bill is gargantuan (or, shall I say, since we're in a college town, ginormous) compared to here, then fewer people complain. Heck, I live in Fluvanna on a few acres and pay about $1,000 a year; in 1997 in Philly burbs on .13 acres, I paid $2,600.

It's kind of like college tuition increases: raise them each year so people feel some pain, but no one will boycott the school because tuition went up 6 percent.

I suppose--in economic terms--price elasticity reflects demand does not go down that much if the price goes up a bit each year. It is much easier to "vote with your feet" when the local oil change place increases prices by 5 percent but not so easy when local government screws you on property taxes.

R.I.P.: John Maynard Keynes

Assessments are the playground for fraud. Look at the assessment for the land at Ragged Mountain which was used to compensate the city. Among other questionable practices the city assessment valued this land as rangeland located in southern Albemarle County. In fact it is close to the city, a unique geology that will hold water high in the mountain. It is and will be a water reservoir. Its current, best and highest value is a water reservoir not distant rangeland.

Like Biscuit Run, huge financial deals depend on assessments of property value. The Ragged Mountain assessment was made by a past president of The Appraisal Institute, a man with lots of credential. So maybe I am wrong, and who will read or challenge it?

City of Charlottesville Tax Assessors are required by the Commonwealth of Virginia to exclude short sales and foreclosures in their assessments. Each year the Virginia Department of Taxation audits localities by comparing assessments with sales of "fair market" transactions in the market. The department defines fair market as:

"arm's length transactions where there is a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither of which is under pressure to sell or buy. This excludes transfers such as sales within a family, foreclosures, or sales to a government unit."

If you have a problem with this policy, complaining about the city is the wrong place to vent your frustration.

@
Richard Lloyd how much was the city paid for the Ragged Mt land ?
Rangeland ?

New Reality

Preparing data for, and according to, the Virginia Department of Taxation is different from a Press Release for the people of Charlottesville. It might have been useful if the City Assessor had explained his report to the people. Obviously many in the community did not understand and are making bad decisions based on this report, including knowledgeable real estate professionals. Hopefully the city budgets are forecast on usable data.

Your comment has been very helpful to me, Thank You

It really pains me to say it, but the issue is Roosevelt Barbour and the Schilling Show has it right. The problem is that the city is desperate to maintain revenue and will fight declining assessments any way possible. Excluding "invalid sales" - distressed sales - is the easiest way to do it - by pretending these are somehow not representative of "fair market value". Jim is completely right: it's completely disingenuous.

Eventually the banks will be forced to slash prices on the houses which went through foreclosure and those will be "valid" sales for market purposes. Real Estate is always sticky on the way down.

I disagree that Barbiur is to blame . He works for the City Manager Maurice Jones and he works for the elected City Council - that is where the buck stops.

@New Reality -

Thanks for the comment. I'm not challenging, but trying to learn - can you provide a link to that?

In the current real estate market, "fair market value" - when representing buyers and sellers (the market) - includes distressed sales.

The localities' "fair market value" is a different one than the market in which I and my clients exist.

THe actual appraisal is on loan right now but from memory it was approximately $770,000.00. Some land was for the increased footprint of the dam and some was for the newly inundated (flooded) land. No mention was made of the land for the Emergency Spillway which is a gigantic cut into the mountain and the spillway land leading down to Camp Holiday Trails. The timber was assumed to be of a value less than the cost of removing it.

Three comps were used. All were open land in the county far south of the reservoir. The first had a note from the owner who state he bought it for "sentimental reasons". The seems far afield from a active and functioning raw water reservoir.

Commercial reservoir sales are being made on a commercial basis which makes me believe appropriate business assessments could be made. Perhaps New Reality (above) could comment?

Jim, here's a link to the Assessment Sales Research Studies, where they lay out their methodology:

http://www.tax.virginia.gov/site.cfm?alias=SalesRatioStudies

The question of how usable this data is for real estate purposes is an interesting one. The methodology was probably written during a time when foreclosures were unusual, so it made sense to exclude them. You want to eliminate outliers from your sample, especially when you know the price differentials are caused by unique conditions. If foreclosures do driving down the prices in the whole market, this effect should be evident in the sample of fair market transactions anyway.

But you could make a the argument now that foreclosure are no longer an anomaly, but simply a different kind of market transactions.

Maurice Jones still lives in the county in violation of his hiring contract. These problems start at the top and trickle down.

Mr. Jones conforms with his hiring contract. The contract is in violation with the City Code. This is a City Council issue. They constructed and executed a contract in violation of the code they swore to uphold. Maurice may be damaged in the end.

How does the city attorney's office avoid scrutiny with all of these questionable goings on?

Craig Brown, city attorney, says the code does not apply to the City Manager. I don't understand how he makes this ruling.

The fox is guarding the proverbial hen house...and running up assessments on it.

Fair Market Value is defined, generally, as willing seller, willing buyer...hello, foreclosures define distress. Most always never a willing seller.

Especially now, with banks unwilling to hang on to properties for any amount of time and, most recently, not even taking the highest bid when there is a cash offer on the table. Not to mention, that when, say Fannie Mae takes possession of a property, a 'sales price" is given, but this is by no means a sale. It could represent the original mortgage on the property, could include penalty, interest, 2nd loans...anything. THIS IS NOT A VALID SALE!!!!! It's just a number!

Yes, there are some instances where a property is listed for sale, usually listed high enough to cover the owners outrageous loans, the bank forecloses and the house is relisted at a more reasonable price and sells. THAT is a valid sale.

But on the average, you would expect a foreclosure purchase to be a deal.

Plus, add to all of this, that sales prices increased up until 2007-08, assessments lag behind typically a full year, so the last increases were likely in 2009, if then. So with assessments possibly already at 2007-08 levels, the assessment to sales price ratio is probably just now getting over 100%. Where were all you people then, complaining your assessment is too low????

The process also safeguards against outliers by taking the median indicator of the group.

As for neighborhoods, I would imagine Charlottesville has a higher concentration of houses in a smaller area, which would increase the likelihood of more assessment neighborhoods. (by neighborhood, I mean grouping similar properties, in style, quality, amenities, influences and price range) I know in some cities, you don't have to have a trained eye to drive around and 'feel' the neighborhood change from street to street, sometimes even block to block.

And no, I don't know Mr. Barbour, but I do know assessment officials have state laws to abide by and most are licensed by the state as well. And have to past muster with the state audit, which is performed yearly and ignores any validation codes by the particular office.

If you want to bitch about your taxes, focus on the rate. The assessment is the fairest part of the whole process.

One more thing...there are instances where foreclosures most definitely strongly influence the market. Where every other house in the neighborhood is for sale, is a foreclosure. But in Virginia, I dare say this is a rarity and not the norm.

And even in a neighborhood where there is one foreclosure, all the listed properties are affected by this and have to compete, so I agree with the realtor above who says they have to consider them. But appraisers deal with closed sales, with an eye on listing prices and trends. But even by excluding the actual sale of the foreclosure, the effect is still evident in the lower prices of the arms-length sales.

Last year two properties we have in the City with houses... the value of the houses went down but the value of the land they set on went up making the totals down a little. How many people have the value of the building go down but the land goes up?

"As for neighborhoods, I would imagine Charlottesville has a higher concentration of houses in a smaller area, which would increase the likelihood of more assessment neighborhoods. (by neighborhood, I mean grouping similar properties, in style, quality, amenities, influences and price range) I know in some cities, you don't have to have a trained eye to drive around and 'feel' the neighborhood change from street to street, sometimes even block to block."

Absolute Nonsense. There are not 47 different "neighborhoods" in the city. When I questioned my assessment once I was cited a comparable almost a half mile away.
Property on Ridge Street from city assessor's records.
1067 850 $612,000 1/26/2006 CHERRY AVENUE INVESTMENTS, LLC 5
765 555 $90,000 9/15/1999 VIRGINIA LAND LLC

This year's assessment:
2012 8/31/2011 $78,800 $0 $78,800 MT General Reassessment
This says that property purchased in 2006 for $612,000 is currently assessed at $78,8700!!! This is below the sale price in 1999.

Sorry I hit the enter key. The other lot as \1067 850 $612,000 1/26/2006 CHERRY AVENUE INVESTMENTS, LLC 5
765 555 $90,000 9/15/1999 VIRGINIA LAND LLCpart of the $612,000 transaction
is currently assessed at
2012 8/31/2011 $156,300 $0 $156,300 MT General Reassessment
$156,300. The total assessment for the $612,000 transaction covering two lots is less than $250k. This land is being developed by Southern Development and its VP, Charlie Armstrong, served as chairman of the Charlottesville Housing Advisory Board for four years. Coincidence or does it also depends upon who you are?

If it is being developed as you say, there are probably more than two lots now. Keep digging.

Also keep in mind there are many types of neighborhoods besides residential properties...apartments, shopping centers, industrial, higher education...all of these and more are segregated into neighborhoods.

S,

That happened to us this year as well. Land value went up significantly, and improvement value went down about as much. I'm not sure what difference it makes, but I found it odd.

Re Ridge-Cherry:

The five parcels* purchased by Dr. Charles W. Hurt in 1999 for a total of $90,000 are currently assessed at a total of $628,200 -- a bit more than their purported sale price when conveyed by Dr. Hurt to his creation Southern Development (t/a Cherry Avenue Investments LLC) in 2006.

*Tax Map 29-146, 147, 150, 151, and 157

Meanwhile, the two City-owned parcels there -- 29-145 and 149 -- are currently assessed at a total of $245,500.

In 2008, City Council agreed to sell the two City parcels to Southern Development, but SD has never completed the purchase. In 2009, immediately after Council gave final approval for SD's proposed mixed-use megabomb, SD put its property on the market for $2.3 million. A year later, SD dropped the price to $1.8 million (if memory serves).

In late 2010, SD found a buyer in William Park who wanted to build a megabomb apartment complex with low income housing tax credits. To the relief of the neighbors, who have been fighting destructive project plans on the Ridge-Cherry corner for almost eight full years, three Councilors voted no in February of last year. But before that vote, Mayor Norris tried very, very hard to persuade the others not only to approve Park's plan but to give Park (in a pretend-like partnership with SD) the two City lots for no money whatsoever.

And there that matter stands for now. But that static status hasn't prevented multiple denizens of City Hall from continuing to work diligently at finding ways to benefit SD's Charlie Armstrong, a resident and taxpayer in Albemarle County. There seems to be no limit to their generosity with our resources where he's concerned.

As for the assessment mess in Charlottesville, it should be a matter of general outrage. There is no consistency. Where there is no consistency, there can be no fairness.

Over the last five years, as the market has declined sometimes steadily and sometimes precipitously, Mr. Barbour and Co. have regularly increased assessments on my property -- a vacant lot and a house on a lot a block from Ridge-Cherry. In 2011, my house assessment wasn't changed but its lot's assessment was raised. For 2012, the assessment on the land around my house was lowered, but the assessment on my 160-year old house -- a house that lacks such basics as a heating system and still relies on 100-year old plumbing and wiring -- was raised. And that was the case despite assessments being lowered all around me.

Note: Despite the assessment on the land around my house being lowered, it is still higher than that of larger lots nearby. (Actually, one larger lot assessed at less touches mine.) And when I happened to cruise assessments on Lyons Avenue just for fun, I found that there were four house lots on that eminently desirable North Downtown street -- home, of course, to Councilor Galvin -- that were assessed below mine despite being larger than mine.

I've put in a protest to both my house and land assessments. Hasslement like that I've experience before began when I tried to deliver my appeal letter by hand. The office worker tried to refuse it because I had not entered my information on a form that the Assessor's Office tried -- illegally, according to City Attorney Craig Brown -- to require last year. Since then, I've had a message from an assessor asking me to call to set up an appointment for her to inspect my house.

There will be no inspection. The burden of proof in this situation lies not with me but with the Assessor's Office. For the AO to have raised the assessment on my house, to which no improvement of any kind was made last year, when it lowered assessments all around me and when its own website notes that 2012 assessments in my neighborhood declined between six and 15 percent is for the AO to assert that it has hard data that when applied to objective criteria show that my house has increased in market value in the last 12 months.

Everyone suffers when a City agency functions in such an arbitrary, unreasonable, and unfair way. Even those who believe their assessments to be appropriate should spend some time on the Assessor's website. It shouldn't take long for even the most casual cruiser to see how big a problem there is.

"Also keep in mind there are many types of neighborhoods besides residential properties...apartments, shopping centers, industrial, higher education...all of these and more are segregated into neighborhoods."
Sixth Street market in Belmont does not a neighborhood make. Thanks Rhoades for your clarification.

"Craig Brown, city attorney, says the code does not apply to the City Manager. I don't understand how he makes this ruling."

If that the case, then who has standing to ask the courts to review that situation? I don't agree that city council is above the law.

Ms. Rhodes makes some great points and raises some disturbing issues.

--"that static status hasn't prevented multiple denizens of City Hall from continuing to work diligently at finding ways to benefit SD's Charlie Armstrong, a resident and taxpayer in Albemarle County. There seems to be no limit to their generosity with our resources where he's concerned."

--"As for the assessment mess in Charlottesville, it should be a matter of general outrage. There is no consistency. Where there is no consistency, there can be no fairness."

--"Everyone suffers when a City agency functions in such an arbitrary, unreasonable, and unfair way.

I think people are outraged about these issues, but there is no organized way to express that outrage and the powers that be in city hall can easily continue to shrug it off as they have. I think the only thing that will change anything in city hall is the threat of legal action in many cases, but that is only available to the few who have the resources to take that approach.

Where is V when you need him.

saywhat? and Cville Eye:

Thank you for your comments.

And a P.S. on mine. Out of curiosity, I just checked the current land assessment of my Ridge-Cherry neighbor former-Mayor Maurice Cox. While the .431 acre that surrounds my house is assessed for 2012 at $141,600, the 1.240 acre -- almost three times more dirt -- around his house is assessed for 2012 at a mere $132,100.

No one has to be a real estate expert to be appalled at this stuff. The ability to do basic arithmetic suffices.

@Antoinette W. Roades, Cox's property is interesting in that it is adjacent to Burnet Commons Phase II - The Woods which will be adjacent to Burnet Commons. We are not talking cheap real estate here. It is also two blocks away from the Ridge Cherry property. However, I guess it is in another one of Barbour's 47 taxing districts, however.

The officials in C'ville remind me of the characters in the IFC cable TV show Portlandia. So put a bird on it!

@Saywha?, Section 5(e) of the City's Charter http://library.municode.com/HTML/12078/level1/CH.html#CH_S5ELOFQUTECEOFF... says that Council elects the city manager. However it does not expressly call the city manager an officer.
Secton 6 of the Charter
http://library.municode.com/HTML/12078/level1/CH.html#CH_S6OFCLELCO expressly says that all officers will reside in the city during their term EXCEPT the Clerk of Council which was specifically omitted in 2010 just before the hiring of Paige Barfield. Council also elects the Clerk so why is its electee, the city manager, not also an officer and thus must reside in the city during his term? Is it that the Clerk of Council is not an officer and somebody got drunk and amended the code anyway? It's because City Hall interprets its code loosely in order to do what it wants.

Cville Eye:

You are so right. Follow on, as the British say.

A dozen years ago, after Maurice Cox -- acting in multiple capacities including public official, U.Va. faculty member, partner in a private architectural firm, and neighborhood landowner -- hijacked a Neighborhood Block Grant Tast Force (which he had first worked hard to sabotage after he was told by the City Attorney that he could not be paid public money as a professional to survey the place where he lived) -- nevertheless had himself appointed Chairman of the task force he had tired to dominate, then to kill.

In that capacity, Maurice Cox -- i.e. as chairman of the task force he had tried to dominate, then kill -- brought Dr. Charles Hurt to a neighborhood meeting at Tonsler Park. (A thing to behold, I assure you as one who was there and one who has been here since long before 1953, when Charles Hurt graduated from U.Va.'s medical school and elected to dissect property instead of people.) And, as I am told on very good multiple authorities, Cox subsequently staged a number of "living room meetings" in the private homes of individual Burnet plant nursery property neighbors in which he sought personal legal authorization from them to involve their property -- along with his -- in the Hurt-SD Burnet Commons project. (If I am misinformed in this regard, I apologize. But I don't think I'm misinformed.)

The time has long passed for those who believe that every local Democrat always does good along with those who believe that anyone who opposes any development project is a naive nitwit to get over themselves. For at least a decade-and-a-half, the politically-correct in-crowd has been in league with manipulative developers who adroitly convert political correctness into tangible gain. By using the magic abracadabra words -- "affordable housing" and "workforce housing," to cite two -- they easily win zoning code changes, regulation waivers, gifts of public property, ad inf.

Charlie Armstrong of Southern Development (invented by Dr. Charles Hurt as a property pantry unbundling mechanism at the end of the '90s) has pioneered the plowing of this fertile field. For a decade, Armnstrong has worked patiently at insinuating himself into City systems as well as into personal relationships with City officials. Paul Beyer set out to follow Armstrong's playbook and thereby gain the same advantage. But unlike Armstrong, Beyer is impatient. Check his record: Follwing-too-close, running a stop sign. Sometimes, metaphor says all. And why does he rent a trendy, photogenic downtown loft when he owns an in town but otherwise eminently suburban home at 201 Huntley Avenue?

Again, people: Today, almost all the money Charlottesville spends comes from individual property owners in the form of property taxes determined by the City Assessor's Office. The most casual cruise of the City Assessor's website should prove to anyone that this crucial system is corrupted by ignorance, arrogance, and capriciousness -- not to mention an egregious amount of factual error. All are affected. All should care. All should roar in objection.

BRAVO!

Antoinette, please curtsy. Well said. Applause!

The Virginia Constitution requires that real estate be assessed at fair market value. Refer to Article X

Fair market value is defined as a price agreed between a willing seller and buyer, neither party related to the other, neither party under duress to sell or buy, adequate exposure of the property to the market, and financing terms typical for the current market.

Foreclosures and short sales have always failed the test of “neither party under duress.” Not without cause.

Anyone is free to challenge this, of course. Be prepared to carry it to the Va Supremes. And lose.

Not only are the assessments screwy, the taxes are also themselves. Council was enjoying the rise in assessments in early 2000s, but they began to realize that more and more of the residents could not afford to pay their real estate property taxes. Rather than reduce the rate to that which is mandated by the state, the city got permission from the state to keep the rate the same but give certain people tax breaks. This way the Democratic Party could avoid a voter rebellion that would certainly lead people to the Republican Party or vote for an independent who could possibly represent the people rather than the party. How was this accomplished. Give the over-65 homeowner below a certain income level and assets a graduated tax credit. Before this everyone whose property had the same assessed value paid the same taxes. Now there is an differentiation according to age, assets and use since no tax credits are extended to commercial property. These tax credits can amount to thousands of dollars each year. Then the city started giving certain people credits of either $375 or $525 a year if they were under 65 but had a certain income and assets. This reduced an even greater number of possible complaints. These credits have the same effect on city coffers as lowering the tax rate or lowering the assessments but it also establishes the real estate tax as a "progressive" tax with the wealthier or commercial interests paying more in taxes than many who have property with the same assessment. Since many of the commercial property owners do not live in the city the party of largesse stays in power buying votes.

The new City Manager should look into this matter with policies of transparency and public input. Is it too late to amend my recently submitted budget survey? I call for a redo.

@Evan Chuly, New Reality and Shay carried us through all of that near the beginning of the thread but thanks, anyway.

I feel it is more appropriate for a group to tax payers to analyze the data and pursue. City Hall has too much to lose by upsetting the status quo.

Evan, the folks here aren't so much concerned with the VA constitution, and the Hook obviously would not get to claim this as juicy investigative journalism If they disclosed that the city was merely following protocal. They would not want things like this to stand in the way of a nice cathartic experience. For example, see how Cville Eye has just woven an intricate story about insidious liberal pandering based on tax relief for the elderly and disabled, a policy that he is surely aware is practiced by nearly every locality in the state.

Dahmius, I simply don't trust Maurice Jones to do anything correctly and there is no way he is going to upset the cabal of people who who staged the faux city manager search and handed him a cushy job. They no doubt expect payback.

Antoinette - you are on fire! Well done.

I too have had the weird comp issue with the city. I challenged an increase of an LMNA property at the Assessor's office in 2008 and was given comparables in Fry's Springs - even though these two neighborhoods are completely cut off by UVa - and identified as separate neighborhoods by the city itself. I looked up all the 'arms length' transactions that actually took place in LMNA and was able to demonstrate a decline and the AO capitulated on the increase.

While the code does dictate that the Assessor conveniently ignore distressed sales, there is still substantial gaming of the system going on.

Ditto on all the kudos to Antoinette. It takes time and attention to piece this kind of information together.

I think the "dirt" has been undervalued in C'ville & have been happy to see the assessor increase those numbers. Location, location, location. I remember living in California & returning to my Pennsylvania home & being able to buy California produce for less than I could 3000 miles away where it was grown. Dirt, it's size and location, has consequences & value.

That said, my across the street neighbors are being totally ripped off by the assessor's office. They, too, have about a quarter of an acre: but it's on a precipitous incline. I have a lovely, spacious backyard while they have an unbuildable, unusable steep slope. Yet our assessed dirt values are the same. Either I'm undervalued or they're overvalued.

I spent some appalling time with the VA code. I spent some appalling time with a calculator as well. There's a wide range the assessors get (70%-130%) to be within the acceptable range. C'ville seems always to be slightly overvalued according to the sampling done by the state to audit assessments. What I'd like to know is: where? Are the modest homes very overvalued and the immodest homes undervalued with an aggregate of slight overvaluation?

As usual, the devil will certainly be in the details.

Actually, Antoinette, the burden of proof is on the taxpayer. "There will be no inspection" should equal "there will be no reduction".

Are we also paying for the catchet of living in C'viile? It's become a designer boutique town like Aspen or Palm Beach.

"For example, see how Cville Eye has just woven an intricate story about insidious liberal pandering based on tax relief for the elderly and disabled, a policy that he is surely aware is practiced by nearly every locality in the state..." I don't recall saying anything about liberals, whoever they are. I said Democratic Party I thought. They are not synonymous. "...nearly every locality in the state..." No, that is not true. That is why Cville had to get special permission from the General Assembly.
The city, in accordance to state law, has chosen not to assess individual properties but uses the state-approved method of examining the fair market value of the homes in an area that have recently, compare that to their previous assessments then apply that percentage to all of the houses in whichever of the 47 neighborhoods they match up to. The question is what houses in your neighborhood are being used or are houses in nearby neighborhoods also being used? The four that I know who have successfully challenged their assessment all told me they had to get the assessor's office to tell them which neighborhood they are , name the comps, then show that those comps are not in their neighborhood.

So, my presumptions have been correct all along. While the Cville elite cloak themselves in robes of liberalism, they pander to developers and the wealthy with hands held out for payback. The most glaring hypocrisy being a mayor who makes no bones about his social upbringing, one that subjugates women. Our mayor? Something is definitely wrong with that picture. Or, maybe, its just so glaring and in our face, we choose to ignore it rather than confront it.

"While the Cville elite cloak themselves in robes of liberalism, they pander to developers and the wealthy with hands held out for payback."

An apt description of the Jefferson School give away.

perspective, I thought your comment about the mayor was somehow a reference to Norris and the Catholic Church. A minute later, to my horror, I remembered that Huja is mayor now. I think for a lot of us his elevation to that position is such a frightful thing that we've blocked it from our minds.

@saywha?, they all have their agendas and it has been "scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" for some time now. It translates into "You vote for my project and I'll vote for yours." Huja has his bike projects and Norris has his low-income housing.

I remember the day on the downtown mall when they cut the ribbon on the yellow bike program and had the media there and Maurice Cox rode his bike to city hall. And after all the speeches and the photo op, a bunch of kids gathered 'round and hopped on the bikes and rode them off with the officials smiling and waving and then you never saw them again. The bikes that is.

The City said then that it did not care if the bikes weren't returned because there were plenty where they came from - lost and found. Each child got to keep the bicycle he helped fix up. I was watching TV one night and the show on was talking about a Scandinavian country to had the same program of bike lending. They have the same problem of unreturned bikes. Why should it be any different here is town? Huja's bikes were not paid for because they didn't cost the city anything and Norris' housing won't be paid for because the rents will be $50 -$525 a month and the city is helping to fund the Section 8 vouchers. Everybody rides.