Commercial property values decreased by 0.1 percent in Calendar Year (CY) 2012, coming in at $30.4 billion. Although multi-family rental properties fall into that category and increased by almost 1 percent, the rest of the commercial property types (office, retail, hotel) declined by 0.5 percent. Commercial properties still account for 49 percent of the county’s tax base.
A county press release suggests the drop in commercial property values is due to impacts from the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) in Crystal City and concerns about federal budget issues. The budget concerns are expected to have an impact for the next few years. While state and federal grant funding remains uncertain, real estate tax revenues represent approximately 56 percent of the county’s total revenues.
“These assessments reflect the impact that BRAC, and the slow economic recovery, continues to have on Arlington,” said Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan in a statement. “While our balance of commercial and residential development continues to keep Arlington’s economic outlook fundamentally sound, we are not immune from the larger economic forces that continue to buffet the nation. As we projected late last year, there will be about a $50 million gap between the County’s revenues and expenses, and both County government and Schools will need to make some tough choices to close that gap.”
Overall, Arlington’s 2013 real estate assessments remained unchanged. The average assessment for existing single-family properties, including condominiums, townhouses and detached homes, increased by about 1 percent, to $524,700.
Real estate assessments will be mailed to all Arlington property owners starting today, and will be available online after 5:00 p.m. Of all residential property owners, 47 percent will see no change in their assessment, 22 percent will see declines of varying amounts and 31 will see increases of varying amounts.
Real estate assessments were mailed out to Arlington residents several weeks ago, but there appears to be a glitch with some of them. A number of home owners reported being confused about why they received more than one assessment.
Assessor Tommy Rice explains that there were errors in some addresses, and unit numbers were erroneously omitted on some envelopes. Although the postal service managed to get some of the mailings to the correct recipients, not all made it to their destinations. Therefore, second notices with complete addresses were sent to all affected property owners. The actual assessments were not altered.
Blame apparently lies with the software used by the county’s print shop. Arlington will be recovering the costs of the duplicate mailings from the software vendor.
For the second year in a row, Arlington’ assessed property values have gone up. Overall, 2012 real estate assessments increased by 6.6 percent.
Commercial property experienced significant growth, increasing by 13.5 percent. That puts the commercial tax base at its highest level ever, accounting for 49% of the county’s real estate tax base.
“Our commercial properties are in strong demand, particularly apartment and office buildings,” Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a statement. “This is our second year of economic recovery — very good news for our community.”
Single family properties, including condominiums, town houses and attached homes, saw a more modest increase of 1.8 percent.
Real estate assessments will be mailed out today to all Arlington property owners. They will also be available online starting at 5:00 p.m.
The increase in property assessments will mean additional revenue for Arlington County, in the form of higher real estate tax payments, in Fiscal Year 2013. Donnellan’s proposed budget for FY 2013 will be presented next month.
For years now, one has been able to input an address into an Arlington County web page and find information like how much the property is assessed for, how much it has sold for in the past, and the name of the property owner.
According to the Sun Gazette, however, county leaders are now deciding whether including the owner’s name in the county’s public real estate assessment database presents privacy concerns.
Over the weekend, the County Board responded to a resident’s complaint about its online property records system by asking county staff to “look into options for redacting the names of property owners” from the search results, according to the paper.
The system, an internet-based version of the real estate records available at the county courthouse, is similar to Fairfax County’s property records system in that it is only searchable by address, not name. However, a speaker at Saturday’s County Board meeting complained that unlike Fairfax, Arlington does not offer residents the option of having their name withheld from the records upon request.
What do you think should be done?
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Overall property values increased 6.3 percent during Arlington’s latest round of real estate assessments, which will be mailed to homeowners and released on the internet later today.
The increase is expected to bring in an addition $30 million in tax revenue for the county, which should help to offset this year’s estimated $25 million budget gap. The county budget office was originally expecting an approximately 1 percent increase in property values.
“It certainly… makes it easier for us to balance the budget,” said Michelle Cowan, Director of the Dept. of Management and Finance, who added that stepped-up commercial lending and property sales helped to drive the increase. “We consider ourselves very fortunate.”
However, Cowan cautioned that continued expenditure pressures — like rising health care, benefit and retirement costs — could still make the upcoming budget process challenging. She also said that other county revenue sources, like sales taxes, are unlikely to post significant increases.
The rise in property values is primarily due to strength in Arlington commercial real estate sector. Commercial assessments were up 12 percent, led by a 22 percent increase in hotel assessments and a 15 percent increase in office assessments. Apartment assessments were up between 8 and 9 percent, Cowan said.
Residential assessments, including single family homes, condos and townhouses, increased 1.4 percent this year. The average home in Arlington is now worth $510,200, up from $503,200 last year. The average property tax bill will now be $4,888, up $67 compared to last year.
Homeowners can appeal their assessments here.
Overall assessments were down 7.2 percent in 2010. Residential values were down 3.25 percent last year and commercial values declined 12.7 percent. County budget personnel say this year’s increase will put property values in the county “close to break-even” compared to two years ago.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan will present her proposed budget to the county board in February. The board will then hold public hearings in March, followed by budget adoption in April.
No word yet on how rising property tax revenues may affect Donnellan’s initial pledge to bolster this year’s budget with spending cuts and revenue increases.
Arlington County will release its 2011 real estate assessments this Friday at 5:00 p.m. Property owners will be able to search for their new assessments on the county’s tax assessment web page (appropriately, the word “DREAD” is prominently featured in the web address).
Assessments are expected to rise this year as the real estate market improves. The Sun Gazette reports that the average home sale price rose 4.6 percent in 2010.
Property owners who want to challenge their assessments should be able to do so via an online form any time before March 1, although the form does not appear to be online at the moment. More information on real estate assessment appeals is available here.