Wood County board hears property tax appeals

PARKERSBURG – After he was no longer eligible for the farm discount, John Piggott saw a large value increase in his property.

Piggott appealed the new appraised value placed on his Harris Highway property in Harris District to the Wood County Commission sitting this week as the Board of Equalization and Review.

“I talked to the assessor’s office. What happened was it was in farm use. I had bee colonies. Then I cut back and no longer have them. What they told me it would go to this year was unbelievably high. On the two pieces of property, I’d be paying about $318 for the year. I was paying before about $94 a year,” Piggott said. “This is because I was honest enough to call to let them know I no longer had the bees.”

“They have rules they have to follow; they have a job to do,” Commissioner Wayne Dunn said.

Piggott told the board he had a total of 65 acres, then it was divided between himself and a relative.

“I just think it’s too high,” he told the board.

Dean Cottrell, chief appraiser for the Wood County Assessor’s Office, said the current appraised value per acre on woodland in that area is $650.

“We didn’t change the value on his land. It just went from farmland use to non-farmland use and he lost the farm discount,” Cottrell said.

The farm discount is a tax break given to farmers to reduce the amount of taxes paid on an active farm. The discount is about 82 percent in West Virginia on the land. To qualify for the farm discount, the land owner must have at least five acres that produces a minimum of $1,000 in crop values, which can be for personal use or sale. If you have less than five acres, you may qualify, if you have at least $500 worth of produce. The value of the produce is what it would sell for on the market.

“If you wanted to keep the tax down, you should have kept the bees,” Commissioner Steve Gainer told Piggott.

Cottrell said in 2012, Piggott paid $29.56 in tax. At that time the price per acre was $4,200 for 38.39 acres. This year the value will be $25,000 for the same acreage.

“He was paying about $110 an acre in 2012,” Cottrell said, “because of the farm discount that was on the property.” Taxes are calculated by taking 60 percent of the fair market value of the property and applying the levy rates, which vary depending on the property’s location.

“It sounds like you are going to take a year’s hit on it because you lost the farm discount, maybe you can look at some options for next year,” Commissioner Blair Couch said.

Officials suggested Piggott might either consider having the bees again, or adding his relative’s name to his property deed because the relative runs an active farm, qualifies for the farm use discount and his property and Piggott’s adjoin.

“It just doesn’t seem right. It’s mostly just brush. It was timbered some time ago,” Piggott said.

“What the assessor’s office is presenting as the value is correct, it was just changed because of the farm value,” Dunn said.

Applications for farm use discount are available July 1 through Sept. 1. The discount was first offered during the Depression era to help keep people who were raising crops and providing much-needed food from losing their farms.

The farm use discount is on land only. If there is a house on the property, that house, a one-acre homesite and any farm buildings are valued at regular market value.

The assessor’s office does periodic spot checks of properties on farm use discount and verifies all new farm use discount applications.