A week after getting bad news on the county budget front, the Loudoun Board of Supervisors received a rosier update Wednesday night—one that may help them keep the real estate tax rate down.
Previously, supervisors were told that slumping real estate values meant they would have to hike the tax rate to keep tax bills level. The board voted last week to direct the staff to prepare a draft budget with a one-cent real estate tax rate increase, to $1.155 per hundred dollars of assessed value.
But last night—technically the same meeting, since the board had only recessed its Jan. 3 meeting so it could reconvene and hold its annual performance reviews for the county administrator and county attorney—the board heard that rather than the county’s property valuation dropping as much as 0.9 percent, the latest estimates by the Commissioner of the Revenue now show it growing by as much as 0.6 percent.
“It’s not unusual at all for the estimates that we receive to fluctuate up until the commissioner finalizes the portfolio, which will be toward the end of January,” said County Administrator Tim Hemstreet. “However, the staff and I cannot wait until the end of January to put together a proposed budget.”
The change meant that to keep average tax bill level and tax revenue roughly level, supervisors could cut the rate to $1.140, a half-penny lower than the current rate. Supervisors approved that change unanimously.
Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) asked Wertz how confident he is in the new estimates, considering the size of the swing in projections, and Wertz said he is confident. Wertz said the major causes for the change resulted from mistakes in calculating real estate values in his computer system, including one error that resulted in a valuation of zero for a Dulles Greenway parcel.
“That represented about $290 million of value, and then there was another $100 million in commercial revaluation that had not been reflected in that report,” Wertz said.
Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) pressed him on those errors.
“Unfortunately, the way it’s handled in the system relative to the tax districts is a little bit cumbersome, so we were part of the way through the process when that report was run on the 18th, resulting in a zero valuation on one of the parcels, which we later caught,” Wertz explained. He said he plans to finalize assessments by Jan. 20, mail assessment notices Jan. 30, and meet with the board again Feb. 7.