Potomac News Online | Rising assessments catch some unprepared

The response to a record 23 percent jump in residential real estate assessments in Prince William County has been varied: surprise, shock, outrage and panic.

“This number has obviously been something that has surprised not just us, but the entire region,” said Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connaughton, R- at-large.


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The distress level is more acute for some homeowners as they consider how to pay tax bills that will rise sharply this year despite a plan by the county to cut the real estate tax rate.

The county’s proposed fiscal 2006 budget includes a 14-cent real estate tax rate cut, which would offset some of the real estate tax increases. The proposal would drop the real estate tax rate from $1.07 to 92.4 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Yet, even with a proposed tax rate cut, most residents will still pay more in real estate taxes this year.

Many retired homeowners are feeling squeezed between rising tax bills and fixed incomes.

Joseph and Marie Doyle of Triangle said their 2005 real estate assessment and soaring tax bill could force them to sell their home.

Both are retired and live in a single-family home near Prince William Forest Park. They also own a modular home on another lot in Triangle.

This year, the combined assessment on the Doyle’s properties jumped around 44 percent, from $315,900 to $453,700. Even with the proposed tax rate cut, their property tax bill will grow around 24 percent this year, from $3,380 to $4,192.

“People on fixed incomes are not in a position to deal with these kinds of increases,” Marie Doyle said. “We spent 30 years paying everything off so that we could live comfortably at this point in our lives.”

The Doyle’s assessment rose considerably more than most homes in Triangle, where the average housing value this year climbed almost 26 percent to $245,805.

The Doyles say they love their home and have lived there happily since 1977, but they may soon be forced to leave.

Marie Doyle says they are considering a move to Florida, where they hear there are caps on real estate tax increases.

Countywide, the average assessment on all types of housing — single family homes, town houses and condominiums — surged almost 23 percent from $266,502 in 2004 to $326,800 this year. For the average homeowner, that means a 2005 real estate tax bill 5.9 percent higher than last year’s — even with the proposed tax rate reductions.

In 2005, real estate assessments grew the fastest at 27 percent in the 22192 ZIP code area of Woodbridge and the 20109 ZIP code area north of Manassas. A typical home in Woodbridge is priced at $315,671 while the average home just north of Manassas is worth $250,310.

In Gainesville’s 20155 ZIP code and Quantico’s 22134 ZIP code, the rate grew the slowest but still managed a blistering 17 percent rise. In Quantico, the average county-assessed home is worth $133,528. In Gainesville, a typical home is valued at $407,972.

With the proposed tax rate cut, both Gainesville and Quantico homeowners would see average tax bill increases of only 1 percent.

Although county supervisors capped the average real estate tax bill increase at 5.9 percent, examples abound of tax bills that will be far above that.

Carl and Claudette Braxton, retirees who live on Longview Drive in Woodbridge, will see a 20 percent upturn in their tax bill this year — more than three times the county average.

The Braxtons own a single family home and a quarter-acre lot next door. Combined, the assessment on the properties grew about 26 percent, from $285,200 in 2004 to $358,600 this year. Their 2005 tax bill will be $3,313, up from $2,762 in 2004.

“I just don’t see how retirees can keep it up in this area. It is just phenomenal,” Carl Braxton said.

The Braxtons say rising taxes are making it expensive to live in their home.

“I can sell and get out … but it’s just that I love the area,” Carl Braxton said.


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