Monday, October 23, 2017

Are Gloucester County’s Real Estate Tax Assessments Corrupt? You Decide

During a recent Gloucester Board of Supervisor and School Board candidate forum, York District Candidate Kevin Farmer expressed concerns about real estate tax rates and real estate tax assessments. § 58.1-3201 of the Code of Virginia requires all property to be assessed at 100% of fair market value. If that is the case, why does Gloucester County seem to adjust the values of property based on the amount of money needed to run our local government? I have been asking that question ever since Gloucester County Assistant Administrator Garrey Curry explained such to me about three years ago. When Mr. Curry rendered his explanation to me and another citizen, I told him under the method he described, one key element is left out of the equation; fair market value of the property.

During the candidate forum, current board members mocked at Mr. Farmer’s assertion that increases in certain real estate assessment values is how they have avoided increasing real estate tax rates each year. In Mr. Farmer’s defense, the County, through certain assessment value increases, increased revenue from real estate property taxes by $3 million since 2012.

I became even more skeptical of Gloucester’s assessments in 2016 when the Board of Supervisors approved a land swap deal with Gloucester resident Charles Kerns, Jr.; in which the County traded two pieces of property for one of Mr. Kerns’ properties. When the deal was first presented to the Board of Supervisors, then Chairperson John Meyer publicly asked, “Is the concept of swapping properties the way the County wants to do business?” He then said, “Sounds like it has the potential for a win win.” As it turns out, Supervisor Meyer had a stake in the land swap deal, in that the entrance to his personal estate shares a property line with the piece of land Mr. Kerns traded to the County.

During that time, I was an appointed At-Large member of the Gloucester Public Utilities Advisory Committee. Once I reviewed the seven properties contained in the land swap proposal, I discovered serious flaws in the assessment values of the three key properties contained in the deal. I pointed the flaws out to the Board and an independent appraiser was hired by the County to determine the value of the properties.

When the Board approved the land swap deal, their decision was based on the independent appraisal values. The combined value of the County’s two properties at that time was $35,000 and Mr. Kerns’ property was valued at $45,000. The combined assessment values of the County’s two former properties after the deal changed to $70,180 and the value of Mr. Kerns' former property changed to $41,780. At the time the deal was approved, Mr. Kerns’ property was determined to be worth $10,000 more than the property he received from the County. Within days of the deal being made, the property Mr. Kerns received from the County was assessed by the County to be worth $28,400 more than the property he unloaded on the County. Not wanting to be associated with corruption, I resigned from the Utilities Advisory Committee immediately after the Board approved the corrupt land swap deal.

The land swap deal story did not end there. Three months after the Board approved the deal, the Gloucester Mathews Gazette Journal listed one of Mr. Kerns new properties as being sold for $55,000. According to online property records; Mr. Kerns sold it to the property owner who has lived right next door to the property since 1998. Why didn’t the Board offer the property to the adjacent landowners before trading it to Mr. Kerns? Even Mr. Kerns’ offered to sell his property to Supervisor Meyer before offering it to the County. Something tells me the new owner would have preferred to buy the property for the $30,000 independent appraisal value; saving $25,000.

One can’t help but wonder if the whole corrupt land swap deal was perpetrated to keep anything from being built at the entrance to Supervisors Meyer’s and Mr. Kerns’ estates. One can easily assume the recent paving of the entrance of Summerville Road to the end of Mr. Meyer’s property line was funded with money from the land sold by Mr. Kerns. One could also easily assume this was done to move the entrance to Mr. Meyer’s estate so it is easier to find by his Airbnb customers. Despite whether or not these assumptions are correct, one fact remains; manipulation of the assessment values is clearly evident and is nothing short of government corruption. This deal needs to be investigated and those found guilty of corruption and conspiracy to commit corruption need to be held accountable.

Below we have provided a listing of randomly selected waterfront properties in four different areas of Gloucester County. Notice how the smaller the property is, the higher the assessed value per acre is. We have also provided a Slideshare presentation of Frequently Asked Questions about real estate tax assessments. 

Email comments to: Kennysr61@gmail.com
To read a detailed account of the corrupt land swap deal click on this link: http://www.gloucestercounty-va.com/2017/03/gloucester-county-va-real-estate-tax_50.html 


Waterfront Property Heywood Creek Area

RPC                Acres             Assessed                  Per Acre

34244             1.39               $209,110                  $150,439

13952            1.46               $260,770                  $178,609

30791            1.48               $208,560                  $140,919

43160            1.51               $145,940                  $96,649

26229            2.53               $222,950                  $88,123

10669            2.67               $243,790                  $91,307

30679            3.43               $280,310                  $81,723

13369            9.33               $364,960                  $39,117

33757            12.6               $404,020                  $32,065

31355            170.476        $636,730                  $3,735

Bena Area

RPC                Acres             Assessed                  Per Acre

28739            1                     $225,000                  $225,000

21922            1.25               $233,200                  $186,560

19725            2.88               $201,090                  $78,955

27404            5.25               $296,720                  $56,254

40850            6.39               $342,070                  $53,532

27619            6.46               $817,360                  $126,526

21425            9.3                  $365,060                  $39,254

21951            13.11             $402,110                  $30,672

41567            13.54             $346,810                  $25,540

14341            58.35             $1,190,730              $20,406

Ware Neck Area

RPC                Acres             Assessed                  Per Acre

16800            0.75               $211,490                  $281,987

21047            0.96               $222,850                  $232,135

22199            1.44               $256,780                  $178,319

16984            1.88               $239,750                  $127,527

10396            2.01               $233,520                  $116,179

23437            2.36               $236,480                  $117,652

22617            5.02               $340,480                  $67,825

43034            6.9                  $417,910                  $60,567

18864            7.39               $209,550                  $28,356

31023            342.57          $1,510,140              $4,408

Gloucester Point Area

RPC                Acres             Assessed                  Per Acre

34254            0.296             $131,440                  $444,054

29005            0.361             $145,470                  $402,963

30469            0.52               $178,910                  $344,058

18220            0.6                  $189,900                  $316,500

12063            0.93               $221,220                  $237,871

30104            1.23               $258,690                  $210,317

29202            1.49               $263,000                  $176,510

33908            2.49               $482,670                  $193,843

15105            3.58               $246,770                  $68,930

22581            17.49             $534,910                  $30,584

Slideshare presentation of frequently asked question about real estate tax assessments. (Compiled by Albemarle County, Virginia)

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