At the urging of outgoing Commissioner of the Revenue Thomas Blackwell, the Essex County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 last week to advertise a Request For Proposals (RFP) — following review by legal counsel — regarding the county’s next real estate reassessment.
Reassessment is the process by which the assessed value of real estate property held by citizens, businesses, and industries in a county is revised to reflect fair market value.
General reassessments of real estate take place every four years. However, any county that has a total population of 50,000 or less may elect by majority vote of its board of supervisors to conduct its general reassessments at either five-year or six-year intervals.
Essex County’s last reassessment was completed in 2021 by BrightMinds.
Discussion about the matter began near the end of the Supervisors’ September 12 meeting when At-Large Supervisor Edwin “Bud” Smith Jr. asked for county staff to address the reassessment RFP.
Central District Supervisor John Magruder, who cast the dissenting vote regarding advertising the request, said he was not happy with the last reassessment, and asked that the county look into a regional approach for such a project. Gloucester County is attempting to make that a reality, it was noted during the meeting.
“You are not going to get five counties to work together on a regional reassessment,” Smith told Magruder.
“Well, let’s find that out,” Magruder responded.
North District Supervisor Sidney Johnson suggested the supervisors back Blackwell’s request.
“In the past we have ignored Tommy and his recommendations, and it’s come back to bite us each and every time,” Johnson remarked. “He has advised us and we need to listen to his wisdom. So, I would support his recommendation in getting this reassessment done sooner than later…. This is probably his last project presented to us and I can’t see that he would not give his best effort.”
Greater Tappahannock District Supervisor Rob Akers, who serves as Board chairman, noted that the RFP is simply an attempt to receive project bids.
“Property values are not going to go down, they are going to go up,” Blackwell said. “It’s going to cost more, probably a lot more, but it’s going to cost the county more if we don’t do it (now).”
Magruder said he favored getting more details about project cost.
Blackwell noted the RFP is ready to be posted and that companies have already inquired about the project.
The revenue commissioner, who is retiring at the conclusion of this year, agreed with Smith about the regional approach.
“It will not happen in time for Essex County to get another reassessment,” he said. “The (Gloucester) assessor was here two months ago and nothing has happened. All he was doing was trying to help….I’ve been around enough to know it’s not going to happen… You might get five commissioners to agree, but you won’t get five boards of supervisors to agree, in my opinion.”
Upon questioning by Akers, Blackwell said the county typically gets three responses from the reassessment RFP. He said another firm may potentially submit a bid.
“If we don’t get responses soon they will not be able to be finished and ready by January 1, 2025,” Blackwell noted. “You may be able to get an extension to have it completed by March 2025 and it be effective January 1, 2025. I’m afraid if you don’t get this moving you won’t have a reassessment ready by January 1, 2025.”
Blackwell also said the county’s reassessment ratio is “lower than it ought to be and it’s going to keep dropping when we look at our 2023 numbers.”
Magruder noted that part of that situation is because forestry values did not change.
“No land value changed” Akers added.
Regarding land values of the last reassessment, Blackwell noted that the project was completed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During that assessment, the appraiser didn’t know what was going to happen due to COVID,” Blackwell reported. “Conscious decisions were made to leave land unchanged, commercial values relatively unchanged, but we knew that building materials and the cost of building homes had gone up. So, the increases we saw were not in improved values. We know land values need to be looked at and will be going up in this next reassessment.”
Meanwhile, Smith said if the Middle Peninsula agrees to a regional approach it will take 18 months to complete.
“Who will determine who goes first?” he stated. “That was the problem last time. We cannot put this off.”
Smith ultimately made the motion to advertise the RFP, while South District Supervisor Ronnie Gill noted the document should be reviewed by legal counsel before it is advertised.