Assessments fall about 1 percent

Published 11:10 pm Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The average real estate assessment in Suffolk will fall about 1 percent, meaning the average real estate tax bill will go down unless City Council raises the tax rate.

The taxable value in the city fell from about $8.96 billion to $8.9 billion, City Assessor Sid Daughtrey said in a presentation before City Council. The median assessment fell about $4,000 this year, from $228,000 to $224,000, he said.

The slight decrease follows a trend other Hampton Roads localities have seen, Daughtrey said. In Suffolk, the number of real estate sales fell by nearly half from 2005 to 2008. Median sale prices also decreased in 2008, down about $10,000 from 2007. Foreclosures nearly doubled over the past year.


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Daughtrey and City Council members stressed that averages and medians do not necessarily reflect what will happen with individual neighborhoods or properties. Some neighborhoods, particularly those with moderately-priced properties, saw an increase in the median assessment because of an increase in demand for affordable housing.

“Some communities had sales that showed current assessments were still lagging behind the market,” Daughtrey said.

The change in the median assessment varies throughout the city, from a 13.13 percent decrease in Parkside at Bennett’s Creek to a 45.17 percent increase in Northern Suffolk, a category Daughtrey said encompasses homes in the northern area of the city that do not fall into traditional neighborhoods. However, Daughtrey said he may need to look at the numbers again to ensure he is comparing to last year’s numbers accurately.

Some City Council members raised concerns over raises in the median assessment in the poorest neighborhoods of the city. Most neighborhoods where the median assessment is less than $100,000 saw increases ranging from 0.34 percent to 11.5 percent, although some such neighborhoods remained level.

However, Councilman Charles Parr pointed out that increases on such small values of property do not raise the actual tax bill very much. For example, in Orlando/Pleasant Hill, which will see an increase in the median assessment of 11.5 percent, the median assessment went from $46,100 to $51,400, a change of $5,300. If the tax rate (91 cents on every $100 of property) remains the same, the median tax bill will go up less than $50.

Daughtrey said he has implemented some improvements to the assessment process that he hopes will ensure the process goes smoothly this year. He is holding three community meetings in coming weeks to meet with the public and answer questions about assessments, and also has adapted software the city already owns to track resident complaints throughout the system. He also has people in his office visiting neighborhoods and properties to ensure data in their system is correct.

Assessments are scheduled to be mailed out April 2, Daughtrey said. He will hold informal meetings in his office to April 6-24, and the Board of Equalization will meet throughout May as needed.

The first of the scheduled community meetings is scheduled for March 23, at 6 p.m., in council chambers at the municipal center, located at 441 Market St.

The second meeting is scheduled for March 25, at 6 p.m., at the Bethlehem Ruritan Club, located at 140 Manning Road.

The final meeting is scheduled for March 26, at 6 p.m., at Creekside Elementary School, located at 1000 Bennett’s Creek Park Road. The meeting will be held in the multi-purpose area of the recreation center.