“In the midst of a budget crisis early this year, to the tune of an estimated $7.5 million (yes, million) shortfall, the City of Roanoke considered its options.”
“For the first time in years, the Golden Goose – the 39 percent of total city revenue that comes from property taxes as the number-one source of income – was not laying those golden eggs.”
“The real estate boom, which had allowed the city budget to swell by just under 50 percent since 2000, was officially over, and being blamed for the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. And for the first time in a long time, the city could not rush out, reappraise your property, and send out new tax bills that would bring millions of additional revenues to city coffers.”
Did you catch it? They didn’t raise your tax rate, the city government simply reappraised your home.
“That’s council and city hall’s dirty secret.”
“And it’s a wonderful trick for both. Council members get to beat their chests and proclaim they have never raised and, some can even claim, actually lowered taxes for city residents.”
No doubt you’ve noticed it over the past few years, that annual post card we all look forward to. Your home value has gone up and now you owe the City more money than the year before. Have you ever seen it go down? Neither have we, and now in the midst of the arguably largest economic downturn in a lifetime, the City decided this wasn’t a good year to reappraise most homes.
In a conversation with our staff, Roanoke City Finance Director Ann Shawver acknowledged that the City only reassessed homes that had had physical improvements made during the previous year. All other homes, the vast majority in Roanoke, were not reassessed. Now why would that be?
Could it be because property values nationwide were down 19% on average and as high as 39%* in some cities?
“In a year when an assessment might actually lower residents’ tax bills, the city decided not to reassess property.” (emphasis added)