‘An increase will be necessary’

Published 11:27 am Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Editor’s Note: In today’s Dispatch Dig, we compare the property tax rates of Lunenburg and other counties in the Heart of Virginia and explain what those rates mean to you.

The rates levied on rural localities’ largest source of taxable property widely varies across the Heart of Virginia.

While Cumberland County has the fewest people living in its borders, it has the highest tax rate on real estate at 78 cents per $100 of assessed value. Lunenburg County, which has one of the lowest real estate tax rates in the state, has a levy of 38 cents.

Counties rely heavily on real estate tax collections to fund county operations, especially for public schools.

Buckingham’s real

estate tax rate is 55 cents; Charlotte, 53 cents; and Prince Edward — the county with the largest population in the region — 52 cents.

Each year, during the fiscal year budget process, county boards of supervisors re-examine their tax rates — personal property (vehicles), merchant’s capital (business stock), machinery and tools (business equipment) and aircraft. For the most part, the real estate tax rate is the only rate supervisors will adjust, based on two main factors: funding for operational expenses and the reassessment of real property.

The Code of Virginia requires counties to conduct reassessments of land and homes once every six years. In the past 10 years, home and land values have fluctuated, which either increases or decreases what a county gets for its rate since it’s based on $100 of assessed value.

Boards of supervisors have the option of adopting an equalized rate, or one reflecting the new property values where the changed rate will bring in the same amount of revenue as the rate before the reassessment.

Lunenburg gets $86,800 per penny of real estate tax. In Cumberland, one penny of real estate tax brings in about $76,207, whereas in Prince Edward County, one penny brings in about $149,100 — just $3,314 shy of double what Cumberland brings in per penny. This is because land and houses are worth much more in Prince Edward.

Buckingham gets about $142,000 per penny of real estate tax, while Charlotte gets $92,178.

The assessed value of $100 on the rate shows the disparity in the values of land, according to the most recent reassessments.

“Yes, an increase will be necessary to maintain funding levels without using reserve funds,” Lunenburg County Administrator Tracy Gee said in response to if there was a forecasted potential need for any tax increase in the next five years.

Since 2012, real estate tax rates have slightly changed in each county. Cumberland’s rate has increased by 10 cents from 68 cents per $100 of assessed value, while Lunenburg has increased by two pennies from 36 cents to 38 cents.

According to Gee, the two-cent tax increase was needed “to equalize the rate after our reassessment showed values to be down (necessitating an increase in rate to equalize collection totals).”

According to board minutes from 2012, following the recent reassessment, assessed values for real property decreased by five percent, “which constitutes the necessity of a five percent increase to offset the potential loss of budgeted revenue to equalize the tax rate.”

From 2009 to 2010, Cumberland’s real estate tax rate jumped from 59 cents to 70 cents — an 11-cent jump in one year — but would eventually be reduced two pennies to 68 cents.

Since 2014, Buckingham’s rate has increased from 44 cents to 55 cents (11 cents), Charlotte’s has increased from 42 cents to 53 cents (11 cents), and Prince Edward’s has gone from 42 cents to 52 cents (10 cents).

Capital improvement projects, such as new schools and courthouses, reassessments of property, decreasing state funding and program reimbursement and increased costs are among the reasons local governments use to justify increasing real estate taxes.

Economic activity and actions by the Virginia General Assembly also weigh heavily on a locality’s decision and ability to increase real estate tax rates, which makes it difficult for county administrators and county supervisors to predict how the rates on real estate could change.

According to Charlotte County Finance Director Norma Tuck, there is a forecasted potential need for a tax increase in the next five years. The county’s next reassessment of real estate will be effective on July 1, 2019.

“As of yet, none,” Buckingham County Assistant County Administrator and Finance Director Karl Carter said regarding a forecasted potential need for a tax increase in the next five years. The next reassessment will take place before 2020, Carter said.

“There are no plans to increase the tax rates in the next five years,” said Prince Edward County Administrator Wade Bartett.

Generally, personal property taxes bring in the second most revenue in local taxes.

Cumberland and Prince Edward share the highest personal property tax rates in the area at $4.50 per $100 of assessed value.

The tax is assessed on personal property — such as cars, boats, motorcycles, trailers, buses and motorhomes — housed in the county during the tax year.

To assess the values of vehicles, most commissioners of revenue — the constitutional officer elected as the chief assessment officer for each county — use the NADA Blue Book. Other assessments of personal property are made on fair market value.

Rarely do local governments change their personal property tax rates. The most recent changes include Charlotte increasing its rate from $3 to $3.75 and Prince Edward increasing its rate from $4.20 fo $4.50 in 2008.

Buckingham’s personal property tax rate stands at $4.05, while Lunenburg’s is at $3.60.

Per penny of its personal property tax rate, Prince Edward gets about $11,139, while Cumberland gets about $6,257.55 — again showing a wide disparity in the values of the vehicles in the two counties despite the localities having the exact same rate.

Buckingham gets $9,142 per penny, Lunenburg gets $10,630 and Charlotte gets $9,012.

Value per penny


Real estate

Personal property













Prince Edward



Tax rates


Real estate

Personal property


55 cents



53 cents



78 cents



38 cents


Prince Edward

52 cents