COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

 

AGENDA TITLE:

Land Use Tax - Revalidation

 

 

SUBJECT/PROPOSAL/REQUEST:

Proposal for Implementation of a Revalidation Program for Property in the Land Use Tax Program

 

 

STAFF CONTACT(S):

Tucker, Foley, Davis, Wiggans, Woodzell

 

 

LEGAL REVIEW:   Yes

 

AGENDA DATE:

July 9, 2008

 

             ACTION:                INFORMATION:  X

 

CONSENT AGENDA:

             ACTION:                INFORMATION:   

 

 

ATTACHMENTS:   Yes

 

 

REVIEWED BY:

 

 

 

BACKGROUND:

Virginia Code § 58.1-3234 authorizes the governing body of any county, city, or town to request property owners in the land use tax program to revalidate any previously approved land use tax program application. Revalidation requires the submission of forms and/or other documents by owners of property in the land use tax program to establish that the property continues to meet program requirements.

 

Albemarle County currently does not have a revalidation process.  Prior to January 2007, the County conducted property reassessments on a biennial cycle.  That two-year schedule for reassessments allowed appraisal 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 land use tax program, physically inspect the property to gauge compliance with program guidelines.

 

In 2007, the County changed from biennial to annual reassessments. This change will result in the assessor’s staff visiting each property every three to four years instead of every two years.  Revalidation could be used to ensure parcels enrolled in the County land use program continue to qualify for the program without a field visit by an assessor. 

 

The purpose of this executive summary is to provide the Board of Supervisors with the advantages and disadvantages of revalidation, comparative information of revalidation programs in other jurisdictions, and to recommend a plan for the implementation of a revalidation program in Albemarle County. 

 

STRATEGIC PLAN:

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:

Advantages/Disadvantages:

 

There are several advantages and disadvantages of a revalidation requirement for property owners in the land use tax program.  Advantages of requiring revalidation include:

 

·         provides a basis for greater public confidence that only qualifying parcels are receiving the special tax benefits of the program.

·         notifies all property owners on a regular basis that they are enrolled in the program and provides a reminder of the requirements of the program.

·         requires proof from program participants of a farming/forestry/horticulture/open space use (i.e., Schedule F, income receipts, farm numbers, etc.).

 

Disadvantages of requiring revalidation include:

 

·         additional cost to administer the program (i.e., additional supply/postage expense, staff assistance, and storage space needs).

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

 

Comparative Information:

Locality

Land Use Parcels

Application Fee

Revalidation

Augusta County

6,000

$12.00 plus $0.12/acre over 100 acres

Every Year, With Fee

Chesterfield County

800

$10.00

Every Year, No Fee

Fluvanna County

1,500

$10.00 plus $0.10/acre over 100 acres

Every Year, No Fee

Greene County

600

$15.00

No

Henrico County

410

$20.00 plus $0.10/acre over 100 acres

Every Year, No Fee

James City County

249

$10.00 plus $0.10/acre over 100 acres

Every Year, No Fee

Louisa County

3,400

$10.00

Every Two Years, No fee

Loudoun County

5,000

$60.00 plus $0.60/acre over 100 acres

Every Year, With Fee

Nelson County

2,000

$50.00 plus $0.25/acre over 100 acres

Every Six Years, With Fee

Orange County

1,000

$15.00 or $0.15/acre

Every Year, With Fee

Rockingham County

5,400

$60.00 plus $25.00 for adjoining parcels

Every Six Years, With Fee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Albemarle County currently has 4,981 land use tax parcels.  The application fee is $0.15/acre with a minimum fee of $15.00.

 

Recommended Process:

 

Staff recommends that property owners in the land use tax program be required to file revalidation forms 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 of conformity with land use tax requirements.

 

Staff recommends an extensive education process prior to implementation of a revalidation requirement.  This education process would begin with the inclusion of information about revalidation to all owners of property in the land use tax program 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 will save the cost of additional mailings to land use participants. 

 

The second step of the process would be the distribution of revalidation applications with the first half 2009 tax bills (to be mailed in late April 2009) to all owners in the land use tax program. The deadline for filing the forms with the Assessors Office would be September 1, 2009. Staff recommends no fee for applicants who file by the deadline. However, applications would be accepted after the deadline until December 5, 2009 upon the payment of a late fee of $125. 

 

The following documentation, as well as any other pertinent information, may be requested from the parcel owner(s) at the time the revalidation is filed in order to determine that the property is being used in a bona fide agriculture, horticulture, forest, or open space use.  

 

1.                 The assigned USDA/FSA farm number and evidence of participating in a federal farm program

2.     Federal tax forms (1040F) Farm Expenses and Income, (4835) Farm Rental Income and Expenses, or (1040E) Cash Rent for Agricultural Land

3.     Certification of Forestry intent by the owner can be shown by:

1.       A signed commitment to maintain and protect forest-land by documenting land-use objectives to include methods of resource management and soil and water protection or;

2.       Submitting a plan prepared by a professional forester.

 

Administration of the Program:

 

Examples of revalidation forms from Chesterfield County and Orange County are attached to this report.  A decision by the Board on potential changes to the Land Use Program through consideration of Option 2, also planned for review at the Board’s July 9th meeting, must be made prior to a form being finalized for the County.

 

Upon receipt of the revalidation forms, the assigned real estate staff would review the paperwork and accompanying documentation to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information. Staff would make every attempt to contact landowners concerning incomplete applications prior to the final filing deadline.  Property that qualifies would remain in the program.  Owners of property that does not qualify would be notified and removed from the program.

 

The implementation of the revalidation program will require the Board to amend Chapter 15, Taxation, of the County Code pertaining to the land use tax program.  In order for the forms to be mailed in spring 2009, effective for the 2010 tax year, that Code amendment would need to be adopted by October of 2008. This would provide time for a public service announcement campaign to be conducted this fall and again in January (in conjunction with the 2009 reassessment) to notify the public of this new requirement.

 

BUDGET IMPACT:

Postage expenses would be minimized by utilizing the current tax bills for distribution of information and forms to property owners in the land use tax program.  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:

Staff recommends Board approval of the process outlined in this executive summary for implementation of the revalidation program.  After final consideration of Option 2 and input from the Board, staff will come back to the Board with a recommended form and an ordinance amendment to be set for public hearing.

 

ATTACHMENTS

A – Chesterfield County – Affidavit

B – Orange County – Certification
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