Computing Effective Tax Rates 101
On Tuesday evening, February 15, the Arlington County Board voted 5-0 to advertise a real estate property tax rate of 96.8 cents per $100 of assessed value. We previously Growled about that, but deferred any discussion of the percentage increase. That rate includes the 1.3 cent stormwater sanitary district tax. It is also 1 cent above the CY 2010 real estate tax rate, according to the county’s press release.
Fortunately for taxpayers, the Code of Virginia (§58.1-3321) requires taxpayers to be notified whenever the annual assessment would result in an increase of 1% or more, and requires the computation of the “effective rate increase.” For CY 2011, Arlington County accomplished this requirement in Attachment V of County Board agenda item 29.A. If the Board eventually adopts the FY 2012 budget with the advertised rate, the effective real estate tax rate increase would be 6.7%. This at a time when the inflation rate is less than 2%.
Of course, since the Board “only” advertised a rate that is 1-cent above what the Manager used to propose a balanced budget, they were happy to read how the media reported the increase:
- Arlington Sun Gazette. The online headline of the story included: “advertise slight rise,” and in the first paragraph, the paper wrote that the Board, “voted to advertise a 1-cent (1.04-percent) increase in the real estate tax rate.”
- ARLNow. The headline said the Board “advertises small tax rate increase,” but made no mention of the computation of the rate increase.
Don’t let the Board bamboozle you when they say they merely voted to advertise a 1-cent increase in the real estate tax rate. Besides, even if the Board chose to advertise the rate used by the Manager to balance her proposed budget, that would still represent an effective rate increase of 6.2%. So be sure you understand the methodology the County Board is required to follow that is in Attachment V, mentioned above.