Feb. 2 deadline for reassessment appeals
 
By Nancy Lindsey
The Patrick County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Dec. 8 to adopt an ordinance establishing the 2015 Real Estate Board of Equalization, as required by state law.
Commissioner of the Revenue Janet Rorrer said the ordinance was "kind of a formality" but was necessary to have a local board in place to hear appeals from taxpayers about their new real estate reassessments.
The board must consist of three to five members, with alternates, and they have to receive training from the Virginia Department of Taxation, Rorrer said.
Applications for hearings with the Board of Equalization must be filed by Feb. 2, Rorrer said.
"Feb. 2 is not long enough," said Blue Ridge District Supervisor Karl Weiss. He said he had been told he didn't have to go through Pearson's Appraisal Company, which conducted the reassessment, but could go directly to the Board of Equalization.
County Attorney Alan Black said the professional appraisers are expected to complete their work by the end of December, and that "would give landowners at least 30 days" to file appeals.
Weiss said he was also told landowners would have to meet with the Board of Equalization before 6 p.m. on the day of their appointment, adding that it's hard for people who work until 5 p.m. or later to make that deadline.
Black said the board needed to pass the ordinance, and it could deal later with extending the hours for the appeals.
Smith River District Supervisor Crystal Harris said she thought the hours were 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. six years ago, when the last reassessment was done.
Harris agreed with Weiss that there is not sufficient time for landowners to file appeals by Feb. 2.
Rorrer said the deadline for making an appointment with Pearson's Appraisal Co. was Dec. 9 and that Pearson has to have his work completed by Dec. 31.
The Code of Virginia actually allows the Board of Equalization to finish hearing appeals by April 15, but the supervisors must set the real estate levy by the end of March to allow time for twice-yearly billing, Rorrer said.
Black said the board of supervisors has to set the tax levy based on the amount of revenue it will generate and "set the rate to bring it within 1% of what it was last year."
Weiss said he had talked with several people who were confused about the relationship between the reassessed values and the tax rate.
"They think there's going be a big tax decrease so they're not paying attention," he said.
Dan River District Supervisor Roger Hayden said he was concerned that the reassessment showed lower real estate values than before.
"It's sad to see we saw such a decrease in property values," Hayden said. "It means we're in decline." He added that he realized some real estate was "overvalued last time."
"All we're here for today is to establish an ordinance for a Board of Equalization," Black said.
The ordinance states that "any landowner or lessee who is dissatisfied with the assessment of his/her property by the Patrick County assessor must file his application for a hearing with the Patrick Board of Equalization not later than the second day of February, 2015..."
The ordinance also says that if no applications for relief are received by Feb. 2, "the Board of Equalization shall be deemed to have discharged its duties."
Peters Creek District Supervisor Lock Boyce made the motion to adopt the ordinance, saying he thought Feb. 2 was "plenty of time" to file appeals.
Boyce, Hayden and Mayo River District Supervisor Danny Foley voted for the motion, with Weiss and Harris voting against it.
Following closed session, the board appointed four members to the Board of Equalization: Wayne Clark, Mayo River District; William Carr, Dan River District; Marjorie Nowlin, Peters Creek District, and Alfred Brammer, Smith River District. The Blue Ridge District member and some alternate members will be named later.
In another personnel matter, the board appointed Robert Worley to the Patrick County Recreation Commission.
HEARING SET ON SUBDIVISION ORDINANCE
The board voted unanimously to set a public hearing on a proposed subdivision ordinance for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 26.
Black made the recommendation to set the hearing in January. He advised board members to contact their appointed members of the Patrick County Planning Commission to discuss the ordinance.
"I think the board should read the ordinance," Hayden said. "I've got several problems with it and my constituents have problems with it. I think the board needs to take a close look.
Hayden said he thought the ordinance violates personal property rights and has too many restrictions.
"I'll fight this tooth and nail to get it changed and start over," Hayden said.
Boyce said he wanted to read it again.
"I want to discuss it in an open meeting where the public is invited," Hayden said.
Foley said the board of supervisors asked the planning commission to update the ordinance about two years ago, and the commission has "put in a lot of time to address our concerns."
"We need to go ahead and have a public hearing, and we can make changes if we need to," Foley said.
"I don't like it, but that's the facts, and we have to have one," Harris said.
TURNING LEFT?
In another matter, County Administrator Tom Rose said he had not yet written a letter to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) asking for a reworking of the left-turn green arrow signal in the southbound lane of downtown Main Street.
Two speakers complained about the signal at the November meeting, saying it slowed down northbound traffic.
Joanne Spangler, who works at EMI Imaging, said she timed the left-turn signal, and found it lasted only 13 seconds--about enough time for four vehicles to turn left onto Commerce Street.
"If 13 seconds is going to back up the whole town of Stuart we've got an issue," Spangler said, adding that a lot of people, including some school bus drivers, need a green arrow at the location.
Rose said he might discuss the issue with town of Stuart officials.
Lisa Price Hughes, VDOT resident engineer, said last month that VDOT signal engineers had decided that the lights were working correctly.