BEDFORD - Bedford County property owners could see next year's real estate tax rates drop by as much as a third - the result of higher property values in this summer's reassessment, commissioners said Tuesday.
Tentative figures place the county's taxable value at $3.3 billion - more than 37 percent higher than the current value - and property taxes must be cut accordingly to adhere to state law.
That means property owners can expect their taxes to remain roughly on par, so long as their values haven't risen by much more than a third. County property owners have been receiving new values in the mail since late last week.
If the owner of a $100,000 property receives a new value of roughly $137,500, he can expect his taxes to remain about the same, the county said.
A higher value than that would mean more taxes; a lower value would mean less taxes.
"The millage will come down based on these numbers ... It's going to change. I don't know how drastically," Commissioner Steven Howsare said.
Value changes aren't yet set, and upcoming appeals could drop the total assessment, but Howsare said he expects the average to increase by at least 30 percent.
Under state law, property taxes at the county, school district and township levels must then be cut to make up for the overall value hikes.
Howsare invoked the standard reassessment rule of thumb - a third can expect higher taxes, a third can expect lower and a third will remain the same. Large-scale landowners are more likely to see their taxes increase next year, he said.
Largely to blame for the massive value shift are the sweeping, across-the-board changes that followed the county's 2008-09 reassessment, Howsare said.
Initial assessment data at that time valued the county's taxable property at $3.2 billion, he said - just slightly lower than this year's. Across-the-board cuts, however, had suddenly lowered the county's value to roughly $2.4 billion.
"All those changes knocked about a billion off the value," Howsare said.
At Tuesday's commissioners meeting, several audience members murmured in agreement as landowners, including county tax activist Terry Chalfant, questioned the methods used to set property values.
"I'm not good to go when you can't tell me how you're charging me for my property," Chalfant said, suggesting that the commissioners have taken a "we-know-best" attitude at taxpayers' expense.
Soon after this year's reassessment is finalized in November, county, school and township officials will be legally allowed to pass separate, minor tax increases.
Such an increase will be unlikely, however, at least at the county level, Howsare said.
"It wouldn't be worth the grief you're going to get," he said.