Following a recent, county-wide revaluation from the local assessment office, nearly all area residents can expect to see increases in their property values over the next three years.

Executed in an attempt to level off the market after a number of Marion County properties exceeded their assessed values in sales, this revaluation has raised questions and concerns from many area homeowners.

“People who don’t sell their homes don’t understand why their values are going up,” said Marion County Assessor Jim Priester. “They don’t realize that they are affected by the properties around them.”

Although many homes are reappraised at higher values because of additions and modifications, Priester said other properties are going up simply because they are located in districts where the market values are dwindling below the sale prices.

This year, the assessment office monitored property sales in Grant District, Pleasant Valley, White Hall and Fairmont City. During the 2008 tax year, Priester said they are planning to assess Mannington District, Mannington City, Paw Paw District, Fairmont District, Union District, Rivesville, Fairview and Grant Town, with the remaining districts to be studied during the following year.

So far, Priester said more than 14,000 notifications have been mailed out to owners whose property values have increased by at least 10 percent during the appraisal.

“I would say, on average, people are looking at a $200 to $300 increase on the year, some more, some less,” said Priester of the revaluation. “(The increases) will vary depending on the locations of the properties, but I can say most people can expect a pretty big increase.”

According to West Virginia law, owners are responsible for taxes on 60 percent of their properties’ market values, so when the values go up, so does the amount of taxes they owe. However, Priester pointed out that although the assessment office appraises the properties, it is governing bodies like the county, local municipalities and the state board of education that levy the taxes.

“We’re just the appraisers here. We’re trying to appraise the property at market value. We do not set the tax rate,” said Priester. “We could raise the property value 10-fold, but if they roll the rates back, taxes would not go up. That doesn’t happen often, though.”

Priester added that when these taxes are collected, a high percentage of each dollar is distributed to the board of education, with the next highest chunk filtered to the county commission. The remaining funds then go toward the state, parks and recreation, transit and the library.

Local resident William Gorman, who lives in a 66-year-old house near Kingmont, is one of the residents who has been highly affected by the recent revaluation. With a new $120,100 value placed on his home, he is concerned about how far these increases are going to go.

“My property value is going to be in excess or close to $1 million in the next (few) years,” said Gorman. “Where’s it going to end? That’s all I keep asking.”

Gorman pointed out that just 12 years ago, his home was appraised at only $16,000, which is considerably lower than the recent assessment, and added that during a 2002-2003 revaluation, his home value soared by $14,000.

While this recent appraisal was a significant concern for Gorman, he will likely find at least a little relief through Homestead Exemption. With a select group of qualified recipients, who are notified of eligibility by letters, the Homestead Exemption offers tax breaks to individuals who fall within a specific set of age guidelines.

This year, Priester said the assessors went to the state Legislature to try and increase the Homestead Exemption to give recipients even more relief. However, he said he is unsure of whether or not the legislators will pass it.

Another possible option for taxpayers to try and lower their property values is to schedule a hearing before the Board of Equalization and Review.

A group made up of the three county commissioners, this body gives taxpayers an opportunity to come in and plead their tax-increase cases and protest or simply find out why their property values went up so much. From these hearings, these individuals then receive an explanation of the revaluation and could potentially receive a lower assessment.

Kris Cinalli, office manager of the county commission, said anyone who has questions or concerns can come into the county office and schedule a hearing up until Feb. 23. The hearings will begin on Jan. 29 and last through Feb. 26, and Cinalli added a considerable number of hearings have been scheduled so far.

“In estimates, this is probably going to be one of the biggest years the county has ever seen as far as the Board of Equalization and Review,” said Cinalli.

He added that the more information the taxpayers can bring in, the better off they will be in possibly receiving a reduction.

“Sometimes assessments are dead on, but sometimes there are problems that didn’t come up in assessment. It just kind of depends,” he said. “Definitely, the more information (the property owners) can bring to show their property isn’t as valuable as it was assessed, the better they will be.”

E-mail Mallory Panuska at mpanuska@timeswv.com.

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