Tax Hikes but No Jobs
by Lewis Loflin
What are people saying about the absurd property tax assessments in Washington County, Virginia?
I just don't see how this can be accurate. I would like to see them sell any of these properties at the increased "supposed value". All property whether it has a home on it or not is not selling anywhere near value right now. I do not live in Washington Co. but with all the increases I have actually contemplated selling my home and going back to renting...it is cheaper...get a nice little apartment with all utilities included...No taxes, no upkeep, no worries.
The fact property does sell here and for more than the asking price. The problem is those who work the typical job in Washington County can't afford to buy anything.
And one former resident:
That is ludicrous! Southwest Virginia is a very depressed area. Few jobs and what jobs they have are constantly under threat of moving out to over seas owners. There is plenty of land here, its just owned by the State National Forest. Who knows, perhaps they are after the rest by pushing people out. Only advise I can offer you folks, do what I did. "run Forest run". Sell out and take your family and move to a place with more jobs and less corruption. As long as Washington County can get away with it, do you think it will get any better? Drug crimes are on the uprise there and I just can not imagine why! Leaving was the best thing I EVER did!
One 80-year-old retiree saw his property value jump from $79,000 in 2005 to $181,000 in 2009. Another resident who lives in a mobile (modular) home with his disabled daughter on two acres saw his property values jump from $121,500 to $254,700. His property tax will jump from $1000 to $3000. To quote this victim, "I could go somewhere and rent cheaper and not have upkeep...Who would want to live in Washington County?" My county supervisor Odell Owens, himself a retired real estate agent, also thought the rates inflated.
The press claims the average assessment increase for all property was between 15-20%, in cases it's been 100%. Experts they cite claim this is normal and is due to scarcity of land. They think this one is cheap because earlier assessments averaged 30%. They also claim, "Washington County's taxes are much lower than in other parts of Virginia - and programs exist that reduce taxes for farmers, senior citizens and the disabled.
Farmers don't have to pay taxes on the full assessed value of their land as long as it remains in the land-use program, he said, and a property tax exemption exists for low-income people who are disabled or over the age of 65." Yes and our incomes and wages are low due to political corruption and uncontrolled market forces. All this does is dump the cost on working people most on the fringes as it is.
People such as my neighbor saw his property values on mostly mountain land double in four years. Mine jumped by over one-third. To further quote the press, "Homes have not gone up as much, land has gone up more than normal...I would say that we are seeing fairly normal re-assessment values in a very un-normal time economically...real estate is selling as people continue to move into Washington County; 415 land transactions have been made in the county since August. If they put a sign on their property for assessed value, a lot of people would be shocked because it would disappear." Then why isn't he buying it as an investment?
The fact is due to things like underwriting $10 million strip malls Washington County faces severe budget problems. They have wasted millions and have bloated salaries for many upper-echelon county employees. They know raising property taxes creates a firestorm from local residents, so this is a way of raising them with raising rates. (They partially adjust them.)
In other words wealthy people moving in are shoving lower-income people out and driving up the cost of everything as public services must expand to accommodate them. They provide nothing in the way of jobs and contribute little to the community compared to what they cost. And the idea of just selling out is stupid because there is no place else to go that doesn't cost more. Earlier retirees that milked the system to buy bargain retirement property are now complaining their cost of living due to exploding utilities and taxes is getting out of hand.
There's few ways to earn money here outside of welfare or government jobs, so they bring in people that will bring money from elsewhere. Washington County it should be noted does not allow public comment at its board meetings and most business is conducted under "closed session." (Back rooms with no records kept or witnesses allowed. This is legal under VA. law.) Ref BHC January 7, 2009
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