Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 31, 2014

Property values: Confusion in Mercer County

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — As was expected there appears to be some concern and confusion among taxpayers in Mercer County as it relates to the new property assessment rates. That’s why all impacted property owners with questions or concerns about the assessed values of their property should consider doing one of two things.

First off property owners with questions about letters received regarding their assessed property values should call the assessor’s office in Princeton at 304-425-7358 and speak with one of the county assessors.

If a simple phone call doesn’t provide a satisfactory response, residents will then be asked to attend one of the upcoming meetings of the county’s board of review and equalization. Once a property owner calls the assessor’s office, a form titled “petition for review of property appraisal” will be sent to them, according to county Assessor Sharon Gearhart. Residents can also ask the assessor’s office about documentation they should take to the meeting.

At that point, and when the form is filled out, those who wish to appear before the board of review and equalization should then call the Mercer County Commission at 304-487-8306 and make an appointment to attend one of the upcoming meetings of the board of review and equalization. The meetings will be conducted Feb. 3 at 10 a.m.; Feb. 7 at 10 a.m.; Feb. 12 at 11 a.m.; Feb. 18 at 10 a.m.; Feb. 21 at 10 a.m.; and Feb. 27 at 10 a.m.

Part of the confusion we are seeing and hearing about could have something to do with the wording of the letters that were mailed to property owners. The Mercer County Assessor’s Office recently sent “Notice of Increase in Assessment” letters to property owners. Owners were told their assessments were being increased by 10 percent or more. But that doesn’t mean every property owner in Mercer County will see their taxes go up by 10 percent, according to Gearhart. Nevertheless, it did create some confusion.

Letters were sent to property owners looking at a minimum of a 10 percent increase, Gearhart said. The wording was misleading because it stated, “the property owner’s assessed value is being increased by at least 10 percent and $1,000.” It should have been “by least 10 percent or $1,000,” according to Gearhart.

In reality, each property owner’s case is different. And how much of an increase an individual taxpayer will see varies from property to property. The assessor’s office uses a three-year cycle to determine assessments. In 2011, 2012 and 2013, there were sales that showed that the values of property have increased in the county, and the assessor’s office is “trying to keep up with what property values should be,” Gearhart says.

We know this process can be confusing, and frustrating, to property owners. And no one wants to see their tax bill increase.

But if you have questions or concerns, the correct thing to do would be to call the assessor’s office, and then begin the process of scheduling an appointment before the board of equalization and review. This is the best — and correct way — to address your concerns.