The Coming Sh*t Storm

By Loudoun Insider

I know, I know, the language has been getting a bit coarse here at TC, but there really is no better term to describe what will be blowing up in a week or so when the latest Loudoun County real estate assessments come out. Real estate values continue to plummet and show no sign of recovery any time soon. Supply has far outstripped demand and houses sit and sit on the market after continual price reductions. If the county assessor relies on comparable sales, the big problem is that nothing is selling even at reduced prices, so the comps are way out of date and out of the ballpark of current “value”.

This poses a huge dilema for county government. After all, they seemed to have no problem of assessing property at “100%” of value during the boom years, even while many people thought they were pushing ahead of the curve with assessed values to pre-adjust for continual increases. Somehow I think the same forecasting philosophy will not be used during the downturn. “I’m sorry Mr. Jones, we can only base your assessment on those sales from a year ago in your neighborhood, and who are we to guess what the current value is? We can only work off of comparable sales.”

Of course this is all just a bit of a shell game as the supervisors will adjust the tax rate to provide what they believe to be neccesary to run the county government (primarily the schools). What is most shocking and disappointing to me is that while the tax rate was reduced during our last “conservative Republican” board, annual expenditures for county government spending increased at unsustainable rates. Yet another echo of the national Republican malaise and misdirection at our county level.

On a related note, if you didn’t follow the spat between a local real estate blogger and County Assessor Todd Kaufman, go to realdiablog.com and scroll back through the posts about this attempt at intimidation by Kaufman. Obviously he’s a bit sensitive about this issue.


Comments

  • Ben Dover says:

    Well, here we are. As I look towards Leesburg, I see the skies turning gray and dark as landowners far and wide await word from:

    The Assessor

    Shout Out to Mr. Kaufman: Sir, can you give us a pre-Assessment assessment of what we should expect in our assessments? From a % standpoint, how much should the average lot owner anticipate seeing their property devalued?

    If the answer isn’t in the 10% – 15% range there’s going to be a Sh*t Storm, alright.

    Personally, I don’t see this thing playing out well. I sense that the assessments are going to come in higher than most people feel is equitable.

    I think we will hear a collective howl from the body public. I predict outrage. I predict anger. I predict a very busy Board of Equalization. I predict Mr. Kaufman will be on the defensive (big-time!). I predict lots and lots and lots of public comment at BOS Meetings.

    This will be “the issue” to watch in Loudoun in 2008. Strap yourself in everyone.

  • Lee J says:

    Yep this is going to be the battle of the year and sets the tone for years to come. Now with the metro in jeopardy, which will set back the economics of Loudoun for years to come if not approved. We need the tax dollars this metro has to power to transform Loudoun into an economic powerhouse. ANd with the repeal of the abusive road fee tax where is the money going to come from to even build some of the most important little road projects around here.

    But the real battle is the school system trying to suck us all dry and using the kids as their pawns. On that same real estate website also shows how many real estate listings are distressed listings such as foreclosures. And don’t even get me started of the vultures that are preying on these helpless people under the disguise they are helping them. They are only in it for a big fat profit off the unfortunate.

    Well I have hit on too many topics but they all inter relate to each other. Bottom line Loudoun and most of this country is about to go into an deep recession and what is our govenments answer a few measly bucks from taxes that won’t even pay most of ours one month house payment. Give me a break. And not just a tax one. Solve the mortgage and banking crisis with is now pouring into wall street and many other segments of our economy and only then can you help the economic conditions in this country.

    As we speak there is a lot of foreign vulture funds about to buy up this country on a few pennies to the dollar.

    All this ties together and the biggest problem is the school budget and those people live on some other planet and now have made it an BOS problem. Yep let those school clowns that have hardly any decent checks an balances. I applaud that kid that called the superintendent’s wife in Fairfax and look how she reacted to this kid. Right or wrong perhaps that is what it is going to take to wake up these school administrators to live in reality. Take away their ridiculous salaries and benefits and have them live on what the average American makes and you would see an entirely different approach and cost savings to the school budget.

    Lee j

  • Steve Hines says:

    Those of us without kids in school in Loudoun are the least welcome in the conversation about the school budget. Our perspective is different.

  • Lee J says:

    I thought I would just put this link here from an story Erica wrote last month in the Washington Post. I think it is very current with this discussion.

    http://loudounextra.washingtonpost.com/blogs/living-loco/2007/dec/31/county-assessor-blog-post-misleading/

  • Mark Kay says:

    What Steve Hines said. I’d love for the parents ONLY to fund schools. That way, they could vote on all the upgrades as they see fit, and then pay for them.

    Actually, I wouldn’t mind paying so much if the school budget topped out at, say, 50% of the entire budget. But at 75% and heading northward it’s getting disgusting.

  • 10 feet tall and Bulletproof says:

    Mr. Kay…
    We agree at last!!!
    Savor the moments, friend.

  • Mark Kay says:

    Haha 10! Of course, we’re WAY in the minority (so why would it matter if they lost OUR money?) so it will never happen. Someone who disagrees with us mentioned that there’s a Federal law preventing this from ever happening.

  • Mark Kay says:

    PS 10: You’d probably be amazed at all the other things we agree on as well ;)

  • Lee J says:

    Perhaps county taxes should be completely re thought.

    Based on peoples income not the price of ones home. It would be far more fair and realistic.

    This blog has lead me to believe the current home taxes a completely unfair in the current economic conditions.

    This womans her family’s plight really got to me and what they went through to save their home and dignity. Heres the link and it is a heart breaking story the struggles many are going through not just here but all over the country. Very sad with sort of a happy ending or should I say at least more time to have an happy ending. School people and BOS read this because their plight is far more prevalent then many might want to believe.

    http://www.mommylife.net/archives/2008/01/avoid_foreclosu.html

    Lee j

  • Blaze N. Saddles says:

    This board will be defined by how they respond to a tough situation. The last board handed them a grenade wrapped in blasting caps inside a decorative case fashioned from C4. With a bow disguising a mercury switch. Handed to them on carpet, in a dry building, during winter.

    Existing spending and budgetary growth rates are unsustainable.

    Assessments will have to go down.

    The public will define them and their critics attack them for their position on tax rates.

    The previous several boards have abdicated budgetary leadership and political power to Hatrick, who is the shrewdest politician in the county. He is made of teflon and carries a deflector shield of “best education for our children.”

    So yes, it will be the dumptruck of poop meets the windmill farm. The question is, does this board have enough smarts to avoid getting buried? A few splatters are inevitable. They’ve got to reign in school population growth, force development only around areas with infrastructure (the crap RE market may actually help here) and not allow Hatrick the high ground–or at least share it with him.

    Everything they do they will have to justify in terms of budget. Energy efficiency–hell yeah, provided it saves the county O&M dollars. Open space–sure, if you show me that the investment is smaller than the cost of infrastructure.

    If they can manage to shut the hell up on pet projects, and justify their actions economically, they will have served their constituents.

    As for Mr. Todd–I’ve had an annual negotiation with him for 4 yrs running. I expect another one this year. But when I take him on I have comps, averages, recent activities etc. all summarized in a detailed spreadsheet. I’m sure he loves seeing my email address…

  • I think this is the year Mr. Hatrick has to gulp hard and take a hit. We’ll see just how many stops he’ll pull out before parents start seeing that their kids are being used as pawns.

  • 10 feet tall and Bulletproof says:

    Agreed, Edmund. The man does not feel shame, so I suppose we’ll have to corner him and make him bring out his claws for the world(okay…Loudoun County) to see.

    Mr. Kaufman – You aren’t off the radar, either, brother. Brace yerself Laddie, Brace yerself….
    You work at our pleasure, not anyone else. You’d best familairize yourself with that concept.

  • ed…, you don’t understand, THE CHILDREN need absolutely everything Hatrick and the School Board has proposed or they will be malformed for the rest of their lives! What will be the first thing they will propose to cut if the Board of Sups doesn’t fully fund their request? You know it won’t be salaries.

  • I’m trying to remember the stuff LCPS pulled a couple of years ago… anyone remember?

    I just remember Lori Waters being disgusted by some of the threats of programs being shut down and the way the news was getting out to parents…

  • Curious Bystander says:

    In the past the LCPS has packed the board room with parents, teachers, and the poor pitiful children carrying signs decrying any attempts at cutting Hatrick’s budget. Those who believe the school budget is out of control need to show up and be seen/heard at the Feb 27 Budget Public Hearing. Talk of a $1.24 tax rate is going around to pay for the County’s increased budget.

    Blaze – you’re right about existing spending and budgetary growth rates that are unsustainable – both on the school and county govt side. And though it may feel like you’ve been negotiating with Mr. Todd for 4 years, you’ve probably only had the pleasure of dealing with him twice as this is his third winter in the Assessor position. Unless you’re confusing him with his predecessor – Bill Gardner. Not likely!

  • Blaze N. Saddles says:

    Curious–

    I stand corrected–thank you. I checked–3 cycles, 3 letters with attached excel spreadsheets. The first one was astonishing–I remember asking him if the county would buy my house for his assessed value. I could have paid for college for 3 and had money left over for a boat. Dude was off his meds. To his credit, when confronted with enough facts and persistence, he saw it my way.

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