COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

 

AGENDA TITLE:

Use Value Tax - Revalidation

 

SUBJECT/PROPOSAL/REQUEST:

Public hearing to consider the adoption of an ordinance to establish a revalidation requirement for property in the Use Value Tax Program

 

STAFF CONTACT(S):

Messrs. Tucker, Foley, Davis, Herrick, and Wiggans

 

LEGAL REVIEW:   Yes

 

AGENDA DATE:

October 1, 2008

 

ACTION:     X          INFORMATION:   

 

CONSENT AGENDA:

  ACTION:              INFORMATION:   

 

 

ATTACHMENTS:   Yes

 

 

REVIEWED BY:

 

 

BACKGROUND:

On July 9, 2008, the Board held a work session on a proposed revalidation requirement for property in the Use Value Tax Program (“Program”).  On September 3, 2008, the Board authorized a public hearing for October 1st to consider adoption of an ordinance to establish the revalidation program.  In addition, the Board reviewed a proposed revalidation form and provided comments to staff.

 

STRATEGIC PLAN:

Objective 4.2:  By June 30, 2010, increase the protection of the County’s rural areas by implementing the key strategies of the Rural Area Plan.

 

DISCUSSION:

Virginia Code § 58.1-3234 authorizes the governing body of any county, city, or town to require property owners in the Program to revalidate any previously approved application. Revalidation requires property owners in the Program to confirm that the property continues to meet Program requirements.

 

To date, the County has not required revalidation.  Prior to January 2007, the County conducted property reassessments on a biennial cycle.  That two-year reassessment schedule allowed the Assessor’s staff to conduct site visits of each property in the County every two years to reassess the property and, if the property was in the Program, physically inspect the property to gauge compliance with Program guidelines.

 

In 2007, the County changed from biennial to annual reassessments. This change resulted in the Assessor’s staff visiting each property every three to four years instead of every two years.  Revalidation is a tool to assure that parcels enrolled in the Program continue to qualify without a field visit by an assessor.

 

Advantages/Disadvantages:

 

There are several advantages and disadvantages of a revalidation requirement.  Advantages of requiring revalidation include:

 

·         greater public confidence that only qualifying parcels are receiving the special tax benefits of the Program.

·         regular notification to property owners of their enrollment in the Program and the requirements of the Program.

·         requirement that Program participants certify their farming/forestry/horticulture/open space use (i.e., Schedule F, income receipts, farm numbers, etc.).


Disadvantages of requiring revalidation include:

 

·         additional administrative costs (i.e., supply/postage expense, staff assistance, and storage space needs).

·         failure to meet deadline(s) and/or provide proper documentation would result in parcel(s) being removed from the Program, the possible assessment of roll back taxes and taxpayer complaints.

 

 

Comparative Information:

 

The following chart shows the revalidation requirements of other localities:


 

 

Locality

Use Value Parcels

Revalidation

Augusta County

6,000

Every Year, With Fee

Chesterfield County

800

Every Year, No Fee

Fluvanna County

1,500

Every Year, No Fee

Greene County

600

No

Henrico County

410

Every Year, No Fee

James City County

249

Every Year, No Fee

Louisa County

3,400

Every Two Years, No fee

Loudoun County

5,000

Every Year, With Fee

Nelson County

2,000

Every Six Years, With Fee

Orange County

1,000

Every Year, With Fee

Rockingham County

5,400

Every Six Years, With Fee

 

Albemarle County currently has 4,981 tax parcels in the Use Value Tax Program.  

 

Recommended Revalidation Process:

Staff recommends that property owners in the Program be required to revalidate every two years, beginning in 2009 for tax year 2010.  This two-year approach would ease the burden of the property owner having to file every year, while still providing the County adequate documentation that the property conforms to Program requirements.

 

Staff recommends an extensive education process prior to implementation of a revalidation requirement.  This education process would begin by providing information about revalidation to all affected owners with the second half 2008 tax bills (to be mailed in late October 2008) and the 2009 reassessment notices (to be mailed in January 2009).  Using the tax bills and reassessment notices for this step of the education process would save the cost of additional mailings to Program participants. 

 

The second step of the process would be the distribution of the actual revalidation forms.  These forms would be mailed in late April 2009, separately from the tax bills, to all owners in the Use Value Tax Program. The deadline for filing the forms with the Assessor’s Office would be September 1, 2009. Staff recommends no fee for applicants who file by the deadline. Applications would be accepted after the deadline until December 5, 2009, but would require payment of a late fee of $125.  As with the initial Use Value applications, a separate revalidation would be required for each parcel.

 

Proposed Ordinance:

Following the Board’s discussion at its September 3 meeting, staff is presenting for the Board’s consideration a proposed ordinance to implement the revalidation process recommended above.  Specifically, the proposed revisions to Albemarle County Code Sec. 15-803 would require participating owners to file (at no charge) a revalidation form with the Assessor’s Office every other year by September 1.  After September 1, participating owners could still file for revalidation as late as December 5, upon payment of a late filing fee of $125.

 

The proposed effective date of the ordinance is January 2, 2009, which is the appropriate date to make the revalidation requirement effective for the 2010 tax year.

 

Proposed Form:

Staff collected revalidation forms in use by 12 other localities and incorporated the best elements of each form to develop the attached proposed form (Attachment A).  The proposed form requires property owners to provide certain information and forms to verify the continued qualifying use of the property.  Staff then consulted with several representatives of the Farm Bureau and the farming community to ensure that the form, while providing the needed information, would not be unduly burdensome.  Staff has also incorporated suggestions made by the Board at its September 3 meeting, namely:

 

 

Administration of the Revalidation Process:

Upon receipt of the revalidation forms, the Assessor’s staff would review the paperwork for accuracy and compliance, and would make every attempt to contact landowners concerning incomplete applications prior to the final filing deadline.  Property that qualified would remain in the Program.  Owners of property that did not qualify would be notified and the non-qualifying properties would be removed from the Program.

 

BUDGET IMPACT:

Although the revalidation forms would be sent as a separate mailing, the fiscal impact of revalidation is expected to be minimal (less than $2,000).  Expenses would include postage and printing costs.  It is anticipated that existing staff will be sufficient to review the documentation upon submission.  Minimal expenses are anticipated for supplies and storage. Minimal late fee revenues are projected. 

 

RECOMMENDATIONS:

After the public hearing, staff recommends that the Board adopt the attached ordinance (Attachment B) to implement the revalidation program.

 

ATTACHMENTS:

A – Revalidation Form

B – Ordinance

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