Del. Edmunds Eyes Session

Published 4:04 pm Thursday, January 20, 2011

Should property owners have the option of being present when the property assessor visits?

Delegate James Edmunds (R-60th) thinks so.

“When the assessor comes to evaluate your property, right now…you never know when they come. They don't ever give you any notice and never give you any opportunity to have any input prior to when you get the bill. And then your appeals process starts,” he said.

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Edmunds plans to introduce a bill in the upcoming session where the homeowner would be contacted seven days prior and notified when the assessor was coming, giving them the opportunity to meet with the assessor, though it would not be required.

“…I get so many calls from people who…say, 'Hey, they've got this thing valued up here and I know they haven't been out here.' Well, this would at least let the homeowner know that they actually did come and give them a chance to…point out anything they'd like 'em to know about that they may not see…”

All of the burden of proof now is on the homeowner or landowner, Edmunds points out.

“…Once the value is set, it's strictly up to you. It's your pain that you have to pay for if you want to have it appraised or what have you. All the expense is on the homeowner,” Edmunds said.

He said he knows that there will be opposition to the proposal, but feels it's probably a 50-50 shot.

Edmunds supported an unsuccessful bill last year that would have shifted some burden of proof from a property owner who has questions about the assessment to the assessor. In the first step, they would have to show how the value was reached and, if the property owner still disagreed, they would have the option of appealing.

“…At least it's not completely, entirely on you all the way,” Edmunds cited. “And…if they're doing a job worth a dern, they're gonna have some paperwork I would think…telling how they arrived at the value of your property.”

That proposal was opposed by localities who felt more people would have to be hired and it would cost more. Edmunds questions why, if they're doing an accurate job now, it shouldn't cost anything.

The proposal, he expects, will come again this year and that he'll probably co-patron the bill again.

“I just think it's only fair. I mean, I served on a local board of supervisors for ten years. I certainly recognize we don't need any more unfunded mandates for localities from the state and…I don't feel like it's asking to do anything that they shouldn't already be doing,” Edmunds said. “It's just actually keeping record of it and just maintaining…a worksheet or whatever, something that says how they got there rather than just arbitrarily well, I think it's worth that. If you don't think it, just prove it. Now that's just wrong. That's kind of government bullying, the way I think.”

Edmunds is no longer a freshman. The former board of supervisors member has a year under his experience belt. This week, he heads back to Richmond.

The coming short session (sessions in the biennium are long the first year when the budget is adopted and short the second) is expected to be dominated by discussions of the budget and redistricting.

But there are a few other issues on the discussion buffet from Medicaid to the state no longer running liquor stores.

Medicaid is 21 percent of the state budget-still Virginia, Del. Edmunds cites, ranks something like 48th in the nation in how much is contributed to the Medicaid match, which he said in the rural district hurts hospitals and nursing homes.

Then, too, he noted the issue of the state's composite index. (It's a complicated formula used to calculate a portion of state funding for public education.)

When times are bad, typically values in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads go down more drastically than rural parts of the state. In effect, that means more funding.

“And, so while I certainly understand the…benefits of the composite index in a normal economy, it helps rural locations. But in the economy we're in right now, it actually hurts us and gives a-I think-an unfair advantage to the more metropolitan areas that don't necessarily need it as nearly as bad as our rural kids do,” Edmunds said.

There were some “hold harmless” caveats in the index last year that softened the blow, “but I think the governor's proposal is to remove those this year. So it could potentially, for rural counties mean…a significant reduction in school funding.”

Edmunds didn't believe there were enough votes to change the formula.

Serving in the General Assembly may be what one would think at first blush.

“…It's not a Democrat-Republican fight,” he said. “It's a geographic fight…That's the one thing that I've learned pretty quickly it's-you know you have this notion, well the Democrats and the Republicans are (going to) be fighting against each other. And I can tell you the disparities are much greater geographically speaking than they ever…were politically because…you can see that with the redistricting.”

Currently, he represents four counties and may be looking at five counties or some parts of six “who knows.”

The district will have to add some 9,000.

His counterparts represent a block with the same amount of people. Probably, Edmunds cited, they'll get another delegate and rural Virginia will probably lose another.

“That's my guess,” he said.

Still, Edmunds offered, “We don't need to be losing any more representation – so we're…working hard trying to maintain as best we can a district with rural character that represents…what pretty much southside is.”

On the budget front, the General Assembly is also expected to tackle the governor's proposal for state employees to chip in a share of their retirement (proposed for five percent, though that would get some cushion with a three percent pay increase).