Taxing: County cars cost more


When Marlene Condon got the Albemarle County personal property tax bill for her 1997 Toyota, she noticed that the amount due June 5 seemed to have gone up, despite her car's depreciation. Condon dug out last year's bill, and it confirmed that the county wanted more money for her aging Corolla.

Last year, the Board of Supervisors voted to increase the vehicle license tax– what used to be the $25 decal fee– by $13.50 for cars and $10 for trailers, boosting the fee to $38.50. It also changed the way cars are assessed, from the National Automobile Dealers Association loan value the county used last year to the N.A.D.A. trade-in value.

Condon calls the change "sneaky" and believes there should have been more publicity about the increase.

She found a notice with her tax bill that explained the $13.50 hike and the change to using N.A.D.A.'s January trade-in value for the assessment. "However, this statement in no way indicates an increase in vehicle assessment value," she says. "Thus it still seems like a surreptitious way to bring in more money without necessarily having the public know about the increase."

Trade-in value is approximately 10 percent more than loan, says Director of Finance Richard Wiggans. He cites as an example a car with a loan value of $2,000 might have a trade-in value of $2,200. The difference in assessment methods is expected to add an extra $1.7 million to county coffers, and the $13.50 license increase will bring in $1.4 million.

During budget talks in February and March 2007, the Board of Supervisors held "very open discussions" as it decided to increase the cost of owning a car in Albemarle County, and those discussions were reported, says county spokeswoman Lee Catlin. "This decision was made in full public view," she says.

However, "We did not think that was adequate, and in the first cycle billing, we sent a notice to clarify," she continues.

That explanation is in the the first bullet on the notice. "We acknowledge there could have been clearer language on trade-in and loan value," she concedes. "Lesson learned. The language could have been more specific, but with the notice going out with a phone number, we made a good-faith effort to get the word out. How closely people pay attention, we can't control."

"I was shocked when I got mine," says BOS Chairman Ken Boyd. "I was quite surprised at how much it went up."

Boyd explains one other factor in the tax-sticker shock: "When [Governor Jim] Gilmore rode into office on doing away with the car tax, the state was going to reimburse counties 70 percent. This year, the General Assembly put a cap on it." That increased the amount the taxpayer owes, and– coupled with Albemarle's increase– it creates a "double whammy" for citizens with vehicles, Boyd says.

The higher personal property tax bill "wasn't intended to be a sneaky increase," he says. But compared to last year's higher-profile real estate debate on the 68-cents per $100 rate, it's just a fact that the personal property tax and vehicle license tax, "unfortunately," are "lesser watched taxes," says Boyd.
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17 comments

Although I am a city resident, I was aware the county government had changed its medthod of assessment and fees. I can not understand why a county resident would call this a surreptious move. Since Mr. Boyd was one of the ones who voted on this matter, I have a hard time understanding why he was also caught by surprise as to the increase in his bill. Didn't the BoS ask the staff to estimate the impact on a typical car owner? Any time you don't have a clue as to the ramifications of a change, you should vote against it and keep voting against it until you feel you have sufficient information. Maybe the BoS was too busy at the time sticking it to the water and sewer customers.

did i really just waste my time reading an article about thirteen dollars?

get over it.

The real point is that you are being taxed on the nada trade in value that in no way reflects your cars true value. Try and get a dealer to buy your car for that trade in price. It won't happen. 2000 vs 2200 how about 500 dollars tops for that car.

I wonder how much money the Governemt wastes collecting that 38.00 and accounting for it.

It would be easier if they just took every car over ten years old and changed the fee to a flat 50 bucks per year.

I wonder why (and how much) the county taxpayers have to pay a county spokesperson to explain the same thing Richard Wiggins and Ken Boyd said. Seems sorta redundant to me. I can't recall the last time I saw Lee Catlin say anything really important.

SOTLR, Now that is something to agree with! Catlin is like a parrot...tell me what to say with minimal content so we can fill the page so with some empty words. It is too bad reporters suck up to this hollow journalism. I'd prefer to hear the words from those charged with the task rather someone who knows as much as you and I about what they are quoted.

What I find interesting is though Catlin said these increases were in public view. I do not recall these increases being discussed as a revenue source when the real estate rate was set and revenue source increases. It was like, quick lets vote & approve and move on to real estate since that is where everyone's eyes will be looking. Forget the facts, the public is too ignorant to do the math. Reminds me of a magic act. Now you see the dollar in your hand...now you see it in my pocket.

Moses, 13.50 is a 50% increase! Maybe your electric bill should increase 50% since it is such a small increase.

Moses,
you need to learn to read. the article was also about playing with the vehicle assessment value. if you need me to explain, i can understand why you missed it.

Has anyone noticed that most people who work for gvernment seem to supp[ort any and all tax increases?

Lee Catlin is a PUPPET. She should be doing the news.

Boyd said "it was shock to me" when he got his tax bill.

Is this indicative of the intensity of his focus on these matters?

Catlin: We can`t control how much attention people pay".

Right, Lee. Work on Boyd.

Now, on to Home assessments.

Moses, wait `til they tax your bulrushes.

Of course, CVille Eye! Takes money to buy all these take home cars, fuel them up every day, and add raises into their paychecks. The benefits make increased taxes much more attractive to government employees.

at $4 a gallon i do wonder why county employees are still driving county vehicles home. not only are county government vehicles being worn out faster but at $4 a gallon i'd say we are being robbed. this must be the land of the frills.

let's see over 100 cop cars times $4/gallon....hmm do the math. how many of these vehicles actually are parked within the county off hours? i'd be surprised if it was more than 30%!

The 4.6 litre V-8 Crown Victoria police cars actually get pretty good mileage..... but only WHEN compared to all the Suburbans and Tahoes the various fire departments have issued as take home vehicles. I've never seen so many fire department vehicles in one county in my entire life.

And as far as the police take home cars, they recently adopted policy that officers living outside Albemarle County could take their vehicles home. How far, I don't recall. I too would be surprised if 30% of the county officers live in Albemarle.

I do know one detective ("detective" not being what I usually call him by the way, you don't wanna hear what I usually call him) that lives way down past Cismont on Route 640. Let's use him as an example: If he uses 2 gallons to work, and 2 gallons to go home, that's 4 gallons a day x 260 work days a year. So at $4.00 a gallon, that's over $4,160 a year just to get him to and from work this year. This doesn't even include the price of the car which is probably replaced every third or fourth year to the tune of at least $25,000+.

All you can do is try to crack a smile and giggle when writing those checks for taxes. The taxpayer has no other choice. The county is going to keep on spending no matter how much the taxpayer cares. Come to think of it, the police chief probably uses at least 2 gallons to work and 2 gallons home as well.

Albemarle County is famous for using every trick at their dispoasl to raise money. They opt for one time windfalls, raising vehicular taxes, reassessing every year instead of 2 and anything else they can think of. Rumor has, they are now considering taxing wells in the county. But fear not citizens of Albemarle County, Lee Catlin will inform you that everything is OK.

She has been on the payroll for 15 years or so. It seems no one else in the COB can speak, i.e. when was the last time you heard the County Executive speak to the public? They are all overpaid.

SOTLR, hee, hee i gather you have inside info but thanks for the indepth sharing. :) I agree with your comment about Rescue & Fire with their OVERsized vehicles. I see them casually driving our gas guzzling SUV's to lunch with one person inside. I am sure they can justify that though. Maybe catlin will showcase them next time she is talking about our green-roof or how green we are. lol

Tired, I've heard interesting things of how she got on the county payroll but that is not what this rant page is for. :)
I do wonder what she spends 40 hours a week doing besides preparing a 2 line statement. But then again I wonder that about alot of govt admin.
As far as c-u-at-budget-time Tucker, I agree. He is like a x-mas decoration you take out once a year. I am not sure where he hides but my guess catlin allows him to stay out of public view. the more you are seen, the more of a target you become. ;)

I agre with all of you. We should sell all fire trucks, ambulances and police cars. And due to having no emergency vehicles we could close the 911 center, even more money saved. But then we would complain because fire and life insurance would cost more.

SellEmAll, nobody mentioned or suggested getting rid of the actuall firefighting trucks, ambulances or police cars. We're talking about all the gas guzzling SUVs (Tahoes, Suburbans, long wheelbase crew cab pickup trucks) being issued to administrative personnel. About a month ago I saw one of the big new red shiny Suburbans with a $500 brush guard on the front sitting at Lowes. Once inside I saw (the driver) and his wife doing what I feel almost 100% certain was personal shopping due to the section of the store they were in and the item they were looking at. If they purchased the item I am sure they used the county vehicle to carry it homw in, and YOU paid for the fuel. :)