Investigation finds error made in assessment of Mayor Jones’ property

RICHMOND, Va. — An investigation by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that while errors were made in the assessment of Richmond City Mayor Dwight Jones’ land value, the mayor did not use undue  influence to get the lower appraisal. 

A complaint was made after a local anarchist website posted their findings, from the City of Richmond’s Property Search and Tax Assessment online data, that the mayor’s land value was  $64,000 below the previous year’s assessment. 

The complaint alleged that the mayor used his position to influence the City Assessor’s office and obtain the reduction. There were also concerns expressed that the appropriate amount of tax revenue would not be collected. 

In 2013 and 2014, the mayor’s property was assessed as follows:

Year

Land

Improvement

Total

2013

$104,000

$150,000

$254,000

2014

$40,000

$182000

$222,000

Difference

($64,000)

$32,000

($32,000)

(62%)

21%

(13%)

The OIG interviewed the City Assessor and his staff.  The records of other property assessments in the same community were also examined, and an independent analysis made, according to the report.

The appraiser said that there was never “a conversation conducted with or direction received from the Mayor or his designee about her work.”

There was no other evidence on record to dispute this statement, the investigation found. 

The report doesn’t note if any other property assessments were incorrect other than the mayors, though the city assessor told CBS 6 that the mayor’s property and 16 others have been re-assessed and the value has gone up as a result.

James Hester, city assessor, said he’s notifying those property owners of the change.

It was previously posted by the same anarchist group that his neighbor Ray Boone’s assessment did not decrease, according to online property records

The mistake was chalked up to a new methodology introduced in 2014.  A chart assigned value to the square footage of parcels, unless the square footage is greater than 43,651. 

The mayor’s property is a little over three acres, or 148,137 square feet. 

The appraiser was required to consider larger land parcels “on a case-by-case basis,” according to the report. 

The new Land Schedule methodology, according to the report, is as follows: 

Square footage of land (Range)

Assigned Value

0 – 15,000

$20,000

15,001 – 20,000

$25,000

20,001 – 30,000

$30,000

30,001 – 43,560

$40,000

43,561+

Manual calculation

City Appraiser Christy Stone covers 5,000 properties in South Richmond.  She said the job includes taking pictures of the home, measuring its size, and documenting the homes’ construction.

“Right now, we’re going through a new system where we’re doing this on a cost basis,” she said.  It’s not the whole neighborhood going up five percent or down five percent,” Stone said.

“It’s every house being put on a formula to see what it’s worth.”

Stone said every property is assessed on fair market value, and that number can go up or down depending on a home’s condition.

She couldn’t talk about the mayor’s case, but admitted mistakes can be made, and explains how it can happen.

“Most of the mistakes happen for not being able to get into the house,” she said. “Not knowing the upstairs is finished over the garage.”

“But as soon as they catch the problem, we’re able to change it,” Stone added.

Hester said that city appraiser has since resigned from her job.

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