2 New Downtown Projects Add 80% to Growth in F.C. Assessed Values

A whopping 80 percent of the increase in taxable assessed values of real estate in the City of Falls Church in the past year has come from new construction, the City assessor’s office has determined. The overwhelming bulk of that has come from work on the two major mixed use projects now being completed in the City, the Rushmark project at 300 W. Broad and the Lincoln at Tinner Hill on S. Maple Street.

Taxable assessments derived mostly from those two projects have added over $121.7 million in value to the City’s $3.8 billion in all real estate properties, accounting for the 80 percent annual increase and a net 3.8 percent increase between Jan. 1, 2015 and Jan. 1 this year.

Aside from this boost, real estate values for single family homes and townhouses have been relatively flat for the past year.

Overall, the 3.8 percent boost, which will give the City more revenue to work with (at the current tax rate of $1.315 per $100 assessed valuation) as it crafts its budget for the coming fiscal year this spring, is slightly more than the City’s Finance Office projected last December. Its estimate was a 3.5 percent increase.

Still, less than robust growth in residential real estate assessments throughout the region have already begun to put greater pressure on regional governments and their taxpaying citizens. In Fairfax County, Chief Executive Edward Long Jr. announced this week a recommended four-cent increase in that county’s tax rate, which would cost the average homeowner an additional $304 a year, even while leaving the county schools $68 million short of their coming fiscal year request.

In the City of Falls Church, with an annual budget in the neighborhood of $83 million, City Manager Wyatt Shields is expected to present his recommended budget for the Fiscal Year 2017 (which begins July 1) in mid-March. He’s instructed the various departments of the City to propose zero growth budgets, but School Superintendent has already recommended a budget with a proposed 5.6 percent increase in its transfer request from the City.

While Shields told the News-Press yesterday most of the increase in assessments was expected, there is concern that the City’s commitment to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority will shoot up by as much as $800,000 by itself, equivalent in the City to 2.5 cents on the tax rate. That’s because, he said, sharply lower gas prices, a tax on which funds the transit authority, has left the agency cash-short.

He said there is still a chance that Richmond (the governor and state legislature) may help make up this difference, but that remains to be seen.

According to a statement released from City Hall Tuesday, the total taxable assessed value for all properties in the City of Falls Church, as of January 1, 2016, is $3,868,019,700, a 3.8 percent increase from January 1, 2015. New construction accounted for 80 percent of the increase in assessed value in the City, and market appreciation accounted for the other 20 percent.

City assessments will be mailed to property owners in late February and updated assessment information will be posted on the City website by Monday, February 22.

The City statement added that commercial new construction accounted for $86.8 million of growth; residential new construction account for $34.9 million of growth. Overall commercial and multi-family property values increased 9.72 percent since January 2015; overall residential real estate values increased 1.59 percent over the last year.

Single family home values were flat with the exception of new construction; town homes had varying changes but overall were flat; and residential condominiums had varying changes but overall increased 2.79 percent, the statement added.

It was noted that as set forth in the Virginia Constitution, real estate is assessed at 100 percent of fair market value. The City’s Office of Real Estate Assessment calculates property value annually using mass appraisal techniques that are standard in the real estate assessment industry.

The real estate tax rate will be determined on April 25 when the Falls Church City Council adopts the Fiscal Year 2017 Operating Budget and Capital Improvements Program and sets the tax rate.

Public hearings on the budget will be held on March 28, April 11, and April 25 at 7:30 p.m. in Council Chambers (300 Park Ave.). Town Hall meetings will be held on March 19 and April 9 in the Community Center.

According to this week’s press release from City Hall, as individual assessments are mailed in late February, if homeowners wonder if their assessment is correct, they should ask the question, “Would my home sell for the assessed value if I put it on the market?” If the answer is “yes,” the assessment is probably accurate.

But to appeal the assessment, the deadline to file an appeal is April 8 for an Office of Real Estate Assessment review and Friday, June 3, 2016 for a Board of Equalization review.