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Property values drop $40 million

SoVaNow.com / December 30, 2013
Property taxes in Halifax County are lower than in most neighboring counties and put local homeowners near the bottom nationally in terms of the tax burden they must bear.

The findings, contained in a newly released Brookings Institute study of property taxes in all 3,143 counties in the U.S., come at the same time that Halifax County officials are weighing the potential impact of the 2013 property reassessment on tax revenues. The reassessment points to a decline in housing values over the past two years, which could lower property levies still further as the new values are incorporated into future tax bills.

The question for the Board of Supervisors is whether to raise tax rates to counter the decline in values — a process that would bring in the same amount of tax revenue, in what is typically called “revenue-neutral” rate-setting.

The tax reassessment, conducted every two years, shows that since 2011, property values in Halifax County declined by 1.5 percent, or a roughly $40 million drop in the county’s $2.6 billion tax base, said county assessor Harold Throckmorton.

He said the decline has been spurred by falling home prices that more than wiped out gains in the value of farm and open land tracts. The trend is reflected, he said, in sluggish home sales: “A lot of them are on the market and have been for some time,” he said. Throckmorton added that the lack of housing demand is especially acute at the high end of the market: “Very few of the expensive homes are selling right now …. You’re seeing $150,000 and down homes are selling, where higher priced homes aren’t.”

The Brookings Institute study, which examined census data from 2007-2011, pegged the average home value in Halifax County at $102,300. Among 10 neighboring counties in Virginia and North Carolina — from Caswell County, N.C., to Lunenburg County — Halifax had the third lowest average home values, exceeded only by Caswell and Brunswick County.

Halifax County homeowners paid $529 annually in property taxes, on average, over the period reviewed. The lowest tax bills among the 10 neighboring counties belonged to Brunswick, where homeowners paid $458. Homeowners in Granville County, N.C. paid the highest property taxes: $1,024.

Granville residents also paid the highest taxes as a share of their home values, at 0.78 percent. In Halifax County, taxes were 0.52 percent of home values. The lowest tax burden, as a share of home values, was found in Brunswick, with a 0.45 percent rate.

Depending on how one reads the data, counties can lay claim to higher or lower tax burdens. For instance, Mecklenburg County residents paid average tax bills of $570, or $41 more than their neighbors in Halifax County. But as a share of home values, Mecklenburg residents paid less — 0.46 percent compared to 0.52 percent for Halifax residents. The discrepancy is resolved by comparing the average value of homes in the two counties. In Halifax, it’s $102,300. In Mecklenburg, it’s $124,000.

The Brookings data is presented in the form of an interactive map that ranks residential property taxes in all 3,143 counties in the U.S. The study was conducted by Brookings researchers in cooperation with the Tax Policy Center. (taxpolicycenter.org)

The Brookings map can be found on-line at http://www.brookings.edu/Research/Interactives/2013/county-income-taxes-map

Listed below are the average tax bills for homeowners in the region, along with housing values and taxes paid as a share of home values:

Halifax: taxes paid – $529. Home values – $102,300. Share of home value: 0.52 percent

Brunswick: taxes paid – $458. Home values – $101,400. Share of home value: 0.45 percent

Campbell: taxes paid – $675. Home values – $144,200. Share of home value: 0.47 percent

Caswell (N.C.): taxes paid – $737. Home values – $100,900. Share of home value: 0.73 percent

Charlotte: taxes paid – $572. Home values – $107,600. Share of home value: 0.53 percent

Granville (N.C.): taxes paid – $1,024. Home values – $131,100. Share of home value: 0.78 percent

Lunenburg: taxes paid – $493. Home values – $104,800. Share of home value: 0.47 percent

Mecklenburg: taxes paid – $570. Home values – $124,000. Share of home value: 0.46 percent

Person (NC): taxes paid – $830. Home values – $118,900. Share of home value: 0.70 percent

Pittsylvania: taxes paid – $573. Home values – $105,100. Share of home value: 0.55 percent

Only four counties throughout Virginia had average tax bills, in actual dollars, lower than those in Brunswick County. For three of them — Dickenson, Lee and Wise — the dollars collected were less only because home values in those counties were substantially lower than the average home value in Brunswick County. The other county with lower average tax bills was Buchanan. All four counties are located in southwest Virginia.

In Virginia, the highest property tax bills — as a share of home values — are found in Loudoun, Prince William, Fairfax, and Roanoke counties and in the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park. Purely in dollar terms, homeowners in the cities of Falls Church and Alexandria, and Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington counties paid the highest taxes. The average resident in Falls Church pays $6,455 in property taxes.

Most counties in the U.S. levy property taxes less than 1 percent of house values, the average amount, in actual dollars hovers close to $1,000 per house.

Even with the decline in property values due to the collapse of the housing market after 2007, the study points to property taxes as a major source of revenue for local governments, around which localities create their budgets.

“Property taxes will continue to serve as a critical revenue source for local governments in the foreseeable future” and called its rate and collection “an important consequence for school financing and the health of public education” as well as “the personal finances of [local] homeowners,” the study points out.





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Comments

The report conveniently leaves out the trash fee charged each household. There is no mention whether or not the other counties charge extra or it comes from the general account.

Comments

I see it coming - prepare the public for accepting an increase in property taxes. This story is but a prelude to an expected, upcoming editorial that will most likely focus on the horrible effects on the schools and other basic services if the increase is voted down. I doubt we'll hear about nonessential expenditures (pet projects) that could be cut.

Comments

Not so much that properties have lost that much value, but are correcting to realistic numbers.

Wait till some enlightened poobah decides to change Virginia law to establish school taxing authorities. Give an elected school board the power to tax and Katie bar the door. Why do you think so many Northeasterners move down here? Getting away from school district taxes is a big reason.


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