newsreassessments increase nearly 30 percent will the city of staunton provide transparency

Reassessments increase nearly 30 percent: Will Staunton provide transparency?

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Property Reassessment notices for 2023 were mailed to Staunton residents.

The Queen City’s 11,258 taxable properties averaged a total increase in valuation of 25.49 percent.

This year’s increase translates to a 12.7 percent annual increase.

Highlights of this year’s reassessment include a 29.4 percent average increase for residential properties, a 9.56 percent average increase for commercial properties and an 8.7 percent average increase for industrial properties. Vacant properties increased by 18 percent.

New construction in the city added $24.3 million.

According to the city, properties have been selling for much more than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Sale prices skyrocketed because of high demand and limited supply within the city of Staunton. Waynesboro, Augusta County and most localities across the Commonwealth experienced the same trend.

In 2007, Staunton saw similar trends with an increase of 32.7 percent in assessments. Later, assessments were reduced by 9.4 percent.

“The value of the land in my neighborhood went up 38 percent in just two years,” Brenda Mead, former Staunton City Council member, said of receiving her 2023 reassessment on February 1. She said her assessment went from $417,340 to $534,600, an increase of $102,800.

Mead said she looked at reassessments for property in Green Hills, an industrial area, and some increased while others did not.

“There was really no consistency,” she said. Land in the industrial park saw an increase of 20 percent.

Timing is important with reassessments, and right now the housing industry in Virginia is slowing down, which means supply cannot keep up with demand for houses.

“There has been a drop-off in value, but we’re going to live with these assessments for two years,” Mead said. The city’s tax rate would have to decrease from 92 cents per $100 of assessed value to 72 cents in order not to pass on the expense to residents.

For Mead, the reassessment means an impact of $100 per month on her escrow.

“I can afford that. I have savings,” Mead said.

However, some Staunton residents will not be able to afford the increase. Mead said the city should be transparent about the situation and answer questions as the city enters discussions about the 2024 budget and tax rate. When City Manager Leslie Beauregard proposes the budget to city council she will also propose a tax rate.

Mead said the question is: What choices are we going to make? She does not believe the city will lower the tax rate below 75 cents.

Mead emailed city council members on February 14 asking for explanation as to how residential reassessments increased more than industrial property. She also asked that residents have an opportunity to ask questions and receive responses during city council meetings.

“I can’t say I was shocked, but I was a little surprised,” Mead said of receiving her 2023 reassessment. Such a large increase, after years of no increase “doesn’t make any sense” to her.

All reassessments are accessible on the city’s website.

Questions regarding reassessments in Staunton should be directed to the City Assessor’s Office, Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 540-332-3827.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.