A better place to live

Our friends at the Waynesboro Taxpayer Alliance are out there once again trying to rouse a backbreaking tax increase out of the mixed bag that was the 2009 property reassessment in Waynesboro.
Mike Harris, who you might remember as the 830 S. Ellison Lane homeowner whose property assessment and taxes are actually decreasing as a result of the ’09 reassessment, pulled in his second Taxpayers Alliance e-mail what on the surface appeared to be a pretty telling story out of a couple of hours of research done on the Virginia Mass Appraisal Network website on assessed values on Charlotte Avenue, chosen we can presume as being emblematic of the working-class part of Waynesboro.

Home values were on the rise up and down Charlotte, to hear Harris tell it in his latest e-mail newsletter, which went out Monday. (And which, incidentally, I didn’t get, despite signing up. You don’t think they removed me, do you?)

One home value, according to the research, was up $32,000 “with no significant upgrades to speak of.”
That was not only telling, but damning, as far as I was concerned. I mean, really, that’s a $224 tax increase right there, and for no good reason.

I like to check things out, and not surprisingly came across the home in question, 357 Charlotte Ave. I’ll leave the name of the homeowners private because they’re not the ones picking the fight here. The value of the home in the ’07 assessment was $72,800, and in ’09 the home was assessed at $104,800. That’s a $32,000 increase, and the only home improvement listed was a $2,000 addition in the form of a cinderblock garage.

There’s more to the story, of course. You had to know that I wouldn’t be telling it if there wasn’t. The home that was assessed in 2007 at $72,800 was purchased by its new homeowners on Sept. 30, 2008, for $118,000. It was then assessed a few months later at $104,800.

So at the least you could say the assessment was accurate. And if it was at all less than accurate, well, that would be to the favor of the homeowners.

“In some cases,” Harris related in his missive, “these numbers are staggering.” No, staggering is the claim that, aside from this story that was much more complicated than its original telling, home after home that saw values up $200 here and $400 there is a reflection of “staggering” increases in the tax burden on Charlotte Avenue residents.

Equally staggering is the notion that is being sold here by a group of people whose real motive isn’t helping the little guy through a tough jam, but helping the big guy whose commercial property values that are a lot higher than ours to start with were up an average 17 percent citywide from 2007 to 2009.

The people with extra zeroes on their net worth have every right to want to protect every penny of theirs that they can. I don’t begrudge them their interest there. I do take issue with them doing so in the guise of wanting to give a hand to the average taxpayer out there whose quality of life is affected in the negative when the Public Convenience Center is closed to city residents in the name of being budget-conscious and when our school system that is struggling to graduate 80 percent of our ninth-graders in four years is asked to take a $600,000 cut from the city on top of even more drastic cuts from our neopaleolithic Republican House of Delegates and when we have space in our industrial park that has been left vacant for several years now because our city leadership hasn’t had the foresight to try to bring good-paying jobs here.

What I’d ask of people like Mike Harris is that they own up to what they’re trying to do to our city. And you can quit with this business that you’re trying to make it a better place to live, because it doesn’t take much to see through that one.

 

– Story by Chris Graham


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