The equivalent of a 20.9 percent real estate tax increase for the upcoming fiscal year drew the ire of some residents at a public hearing during Martinsville City Council’s meeting Tuesday.
“I think this budget and property assessment is totally out of line,” Ural Harris said of the increase that is the result of a 2022 reassessment of properties in the city.
According to information from the Commissioner of the Revenue’s office, the total assessed value of the real property, excluding additional assessments due to new construction or improvements to the property, exceeded last year’s total by 20.32 percent due to the recently completed biennial reassessment.
A lowered rate that would offset the increased assessment and levy the same amount of real estate tax as last year would be $0.86 per $100 of assessed value, City Manager Leon Towarnicki said.
In the proposed FY24 budget presented to the council on April 25, the real estate tax rate is proposed to be left as is, at $1.04 per $100 of assessed value, which is an effective tax rate increase of 20.9 percent or the equivalent of $0.18 per $100, Towarnicki said.
The effective tax rate increase is expected to generate $1.2 to $1.3 million in additional revenue that is included in the proposed FY24 budget, with each $0.01 generating approximately $70,000 in revenue, he added.
Harris suggested the council consider rolling the proposed tax rate back to $0.87 per $100 of assessed value, which would represent a one-cent increase from the current rate. Harris said the smaller increase was fair and should be sufficient.
Noting his experience in commercial real estate appraisal, Michael Green expressed concerns with the tax assessment increases. Houses near his neighborhood of Oakdale Street were among his main concerns, with one of the homes increasing 36 percent in assessed value without any improvements being made to the property.
Green also noted that most of the rental properties had no increases in assessed value.
“I have a lot of questions for the tax assessor on how they came up with these increases,” Green said, and noted that 33 percent of the city’s property information cards contained inaccurate information.
Don Bredamus said the increase will represent a difference of $540 per year that he will have to pay.
“I’m not gaining more but I’m paying more. People who have struggling incomes are going to be hurt tremendously by maintaining the tax rate as it is,” Bredamus said.
He said the tax rate could be a deterrent for residents, and added that if someone is looking to move to the area, they likely would choose to live in the county due to the cheaper tax rate.
A public hearing is mandated by state law when the assessment of real property results in an increase of one percent or more in the total real property tax levied.
In other matters, the council:
*Approved a resolution supporting “mixed-use” of the McCollum-Ferrell building at 16-18 East Church Street. Towarnicki said he believes the property is a good match for mixed use for the uptown area. The council voted to approve the resolution.
*Heard an update from the Danville Redevelopment and Housing Authority (DRHA) on the recently opened Center for Housing Education in Martinsville. The center works with roughly 250 clients per year and has assisted with over 150 home purchases by providing resources and down payment assistance. It is bringing a program called the Family Self Sufficiency program to the area, a HUD-funded five-year program that is designed to prepare individuals for financial success. The center is located in the Chief Tassel Building at 51 East Church Street.
*Presented a proclamation to City Building Inspector Chris Bridges after deeming May 2023 as Building Safety Month.
*Set a public hearing for the FY2024 budget for the May 23 council meeting.
*Noted that the Chamber of Commerce Startup Awards will be held in city council chambers at 11 a.m. on May 15
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