If your question isn’t addressed on our website, please call 540.332.3827 or email the City Assessor.
Why do we have a real estate tax?
The purpose of a local tax based on real estate is to distribute the necessary tax burden of providing services such as public education, fire and police protection, roads and utilities among all property owners based upon the market value of their property.
The real estate tax is a relatively stable source of revenue compared to other major local taxes like business and occupational licenses (gross receipts), meals and lodging taxes, or the local sales tax.
Why don’t we just use a cost-of-living factor, like the Consumer Price Index, to value real estate?
The Consumer Price Index, or CPI, produces monthly data on changes in prices paid by urban consumers for a representative basket of goods and services. By definition, it does not include a real estate component. Since real estate varies a great deal from region-to-region, state-to-state, locality-to-locality and even neighborhood-to-neighborhood, it would be impractical to assign an index.
Virginia law requires that cities reassess at least every two years and that assessments be fair and equitable. The best way to ensure fairness and equity is to make adjustments to the assessed value of real estate as frequently as possible. This ensures that market forces, both positive and negative, are recognized. Assessment officials generally support reassessments as often as possible, since this allows for adjustments to reflect changing market conditions.
Real estate is the one truly local “commodity” – it cannot be relocated or sold and transported across state or city lines as goods and services can. All residential neighborhoods do not increase or decrease in value at the same rate. The market for commercial properties fluctuates with market trends.
When does the City reassess?
The City reassesses every two years, on odd numbered years. The most recent reassessment was effective January 1, 2017. The next reassessment will be effective January 1, 2019. Reassessment notices are typically mailed out at the end of February of the new assessment year.
How is the amount of real estate tax determined?
The assessor’s primary duty is to estimate the fair market value of local real estate. The amount of taxes paid by each property owner is a function of the tax rate established by the City Council (currently $0.95) and determined by the amount of revenue needed to provide City services. The amount of tax levied follows this formula:
- Assessed Value / 100 x Tax Rate = Real Estate Taxes
- An example: Property assessed at $125,000($125,000 / 100) x $0.95 = $1,187.50
When are real estate taxes due and to whom are they paid?
Tax bills based on the current calendar year assessment (January 1) are usually sent in early May. Seventy-five percent of the tax bill is due on June 20th, with the remaining 25% due on the following December 5th. Tax bills that are the responsibility of mortgage companies (who have loaned the money for the property) are sent a little earlier, and the entire escrow amount is due on June 20th.
The Treasurer is in charge of billing and collecting real estate taxes. The assessor provides the Treasurer with a listing of all real estate parcels in the city and the taxes they owe.
Does Staunton have a program to assist senior citizens and disabled persons with their property taxes?
Yes. City Council has adopted a tax relief program for the “elderly and disabled” which provides tax relief on a sliding income scale. This program is administered by the Commissioner of the Revenue.
Does Staunton offer a program that encourages the rehabilitation of existing property?
Yes. The Rehabilitation Abatement Program provides a lump sum abatement equal to the increase in value due to renovation, provided certain reasonable conditions are met. The abatement is good for seven years. This program is administered by the Assessor’s Office. Download the Rehabilitation Abatement Program brochure for details.
How can a property owner appeal his or her real estate assessment?
Property owners who have questions regarding their assessment may contact the Assessor’s Office. The assessor or staff will review the property information and explain how the assessment was made. An inspection of the property may be scheduled to confirm the accuracy of the data.
Following a change in assessment, a "Notice of Assessment" is sent to each property owner informing them of the new assessed value of their property and the deadlines for filing an appeal.
The Assessor's Office accepts informal appeals for 30 calendar days from the date of the mailing. During this period, staff answer questions about the assessments and work with property owners to ensure that City data is accurate.
Another 30 day period follows during which the Assessor's Office accepts formal written appeals on behalf of the Board of Equalization. This allows the property owner to appeal the assessment to a board composed of three local property owners, including a licensed appraiser, a realtor and an attorney.
Virginia law provides that the basis for an appeal must include either or both of the following reasons:
- The property is not assessed at its fair market value.
- The property is not assessed equitably with other similar properties.
As soon as practicable after this second 30 day period expires, the Board meets and considers the appeals brought before it.
If the property owner is not satisfied with the decision of the Board of Equalization, he or she may appeal further to the local Circuit Court. This appeal must be filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court.