Home values rise in Warren

FRONT ROYAL – Home values improved overall in Warren County and Front Royal last year, but less so for properties in town, recent data shows.

If the county Board of Supervisors keeps the real estate tax rate “neutral,” town property owners could catch a small tax break. County property owners would still see their bills increase.

County Administrator Douglas Stanley told supervisors Tuesday that the average value for real estate in the county and in town limits increased by an average 5.5 percent since the last reassessment. The value of the average, single-family home in Front Royal increased 3.4 percent, Stanley said. In contrast, the average value of a single-family home outside town in the county increased by 7.4 percent.

Supervisor Tony Carter noted at the meeting that the county would need to reduce the real estate tax rate in order to make the levy “revenue neutral,” given the apparent increase in property values. Stanley explained that the county would have to advertise an “equalized” rate, which would be 5.5 percent below the current levy. The board would need to hold a public hearing should the county seek to impose a levy different from the equalized rate.

The county charges a real estate tax rate of 61 cents per $100 of assessed value. The board would need to reduce the tax rate to approximately 57.6 cents per $100 of assessed value, Stanley said later on Tuesday. However, the Board of Equalization has not begun its work to review any appeals made by property owners over their assessments, Stanley explained. The results of the Board of Equalization’s findings may or may not affect the overall property values.

In town, where home values increased 3.4 percent, a 5.5 percent reduction in the levy imposed by the county would result in a small decrease in the real estate tax bill for properties in Front Royal. Warren County property owners would see a small increase in their bills even with a revenue-neutral tax levy.

“So an equalized rate, the average town taxpayer will see a decreased bill and in the county, an increased bill,” Stanley told the board.

Front Royal charges a separate levy on real estate in town limits. Front Royal Finance Director Kim Gilkey-Breeden said Tuesday afternoon that she had not yet received the reassessment data from the county. The town will use the reassessment information in determining the new tax rate for the upcoming year.

Wingate Appraisal & Mapping conducted the recent reassessment of properties in Warren County and Front Royal and concluded the work in the fall. The Board of Assessors held meetings in December with property owners who had concerns with the reassessments.

Information provided by Stanley from Wingate showed that the average value of multi-family dwellings in the county increased by 5.8 percent. The average value of agricultural properties of 20-99 acres increased by 7 percent, while properties of more than 99 acres increased by 4.2 percent. Values of commercial and industrial properties increased by 2 percent on average.

Property owners will have another chance to appeal their new assessment. The Board of Equalization will hear assessment appeals from Feb. 27 through April 30.

Also during his report, but not exactly connected to the recent reassessment, Stanley pointed out that the recent completion of the Dominion power plant north of Front Royal should help the county see its overall commercial-industrial tax base increase closer to its goal of 30-35 percent. At the end of the recent general reassessment, commercial and industrial property made up $774.95 million of the total value of $4.37 billion, or about 18 percent, Stanley explained. Based on Dominion’s $1.1 billion investment in the project, the county can anticipate that the facility would have a value of $900.9 million, or 90 percent of that initial investment, Stanley said. The State Corporation Commission must confirm the value of the facility when it performs the assessment of the plant in the first quarter of this year, Stanley said. Based on that estimate, the county can expect the commercial and industrial portion of the tax base to increase to 32.9 percent.

“The community should be congratulated for attaining this long, sought-after goal,” Stanley said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com