Story by Chris Graham
Backdoor tax increases resulting from increases in local property-value reassessments are “unfair,” Republican Party gubernatorial-nomination frontrunner Jerry Kilgore said on Wednesday.
“I don’t know about you, but the only number that I care about as a taxpayer goes in that little box on the right-hand side of each check that I write. If that number goes up, my tax burden goes up,” the former attorney general said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning.
“That’s money that I could have used for education needs or to send my children to camp or to build an addition on the house. It is a tax increase. For this reason, it is imperative that we put an end to rapidly rising real-estate tax assessments,” Kilgore said.
Earlier this spring, Kilgore unveiled his plan for addressing seemingly out-of-control local property assessments – calling for a state constitutional amendment that would cap local assessment increases at 5 percent a year.
He fleshed the plan out yesterday morning – with a provision for a strengthened public-notice and comment system in which property owners would be given 30 days to weigh in on any proposed local real-estate tax-rate increases and another that would put the onus on local governments to justify assessment increases going above a 20 percent annual threshold.
“Those 20 percent increases certainly ought to be treated as being suspect,” Kilgore said. “There are differing standards in the code in other areas when you build above a certain percentage. This is a place where it’s appropriate to say that if it goes above 20 percent or more, that burden is on local government.
“The situation that homeowners are facing is a serious one,” Kilgore said. “All around Virginia, home assessments are skyrocketing. In Fairfax County, assessments increased by 23 percent this year. In Prince William, the increase was also 23 percent. In Virginia Beach, 22 percent. Chesapeake, 19 percent, and Chesterfield, 11 percent.”
Kilgore’s likely Democratic Party rival in the fall, Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, has also advanced a plan for dealing with the assessment issue – the Kaine proposal would through a constitutional amendment give local governments the power to exempt up to 20 percent of the assessed value of owner-occupied homes and farms from taxation.
Of note is that Kaine has said that a key part of his plan is the promise that the state will fully fund its share of public-education costs under the state Standards of Quality.
But as Kilgore noted on Wednesday, “all agree that public education, public health, the primary expenses, are fully funded.”
“What is happening here is simple. Politicians are cutting the real-estate tax rate by a penny or two, and some are trumpeting themselves as tax-cutters. This is dishonest. And it’s intentionally misleading,” Kilgore said.
“It’s time that we put an end to this. My plan does,” Kilgore said.