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Tax rates down, assessments up in city

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Property tax rates are going down in Charleston following the annual "laying of the levy" special meeting of City Council Tuesday. That sounds like good news.

Web Dateline:CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Property tax rates are going down in Charleston following Tuesday's annual "laying of the levy" special meeting of the City Council.

That sounds like good news. However, as many homeowners have or will learn, their tax bill might be going up because of recent reappraisals by the Kanawha County Assessor's Office.

The two figures -- tax rate and assessed value -- work hand-in-hand in figuring how much taxpayers owe, and how much the city collects in property tax revenues each year.

Even with the lower tax rate, Charleston expects to collect $513,744 more in property taxes during the fiscal year that starts July 1 than in the current year, city Finance Director Joe Estep said.

There are actually two parts to property tax rates: the regular levy and the excess levy. The excess levy is set once every four years through a special election -- most recently, last spring -- and then remains unchanged until the next special election.

On the other hand, the City Council can change the regular levy rate every year, within limits.

"Typically, you leave it as it is or raise it," Estep said.

In the past couple of years, with the city budget squeezed by pension problems, council members have been inching the regular levy rate up a bit. They had planned to do so again next year, but then the county delivered its annual tax assessment figures and Estep found there was a problem: State law says cities can't enjoy a property tax "windfall" if reassessments raise tax revenues by more than 3 percent in any one year.

So instead of raising the levy rate, "We had to lower our rates," Estep said. "It still generates more revenue for us, and it's driven by property evaluation increases."

Here are the numbers:

| Excess levy rates stay the same -- 10.06 cents per $100 of assessed value for Class II (residential) property and 20.12 cents for Class IV (commercial) property. Reappraisals mean the city will get an extra $236,052 from the excess levy next year.

| Regular levy rates go down a bit -- from 16.34 to 16.12 cents per $100 on Class II and from 32.68 to 32.24 cents per $100 on Class IV property. Again, the city will get an extra $277,722 because of reappraisals.

If your house was not reappraised, don't start planning a trip to Myrtle Beach. You won't be saving much. The effect on a house appraised for $100,000 is a meager $1.32 -- enough for an order of value fries at Wendy's.

Reach Jim Balow at balow@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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