Hampton Roads tax comparison report changed after 10 On Your Side interview

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – A recently published report compares taxes for a family of four in all of the Hampton Roads cities.

The Comparative Indicators to other Hampton Roads’ Cities report was completed in July and posted on the City of Virginia Beach website last week.

City Manager Dave Hansen sat down with 10 On Your Side’s Brandi Cummings to discuss the report. He said, “What it does for us is to determine are we out of kilter with the tax rates that other jurisdictions have.”

Hansen said there are two reasons they’ve compiled the data every year for at least a decade.

“To be able to see where we stand in comparison to the other cities it also provides a baseline for the commencement of the next year’s budget cycle,” he said.

On the surface, this report appears to show that only one Hampton Roads city with lower taxes than Virginia Beach. Chesapeake has a negative number, which means based on the chart, its local tax impact for a family of four is about $50 less.

The numbers for other cities appear to be much higher.

For instance, Newport News showed a more than $1,800 difference.

However, during the WAVY interview we learned that number was wrong.

“The report that you’re looking at there has probably the original version had an error on it,” Hansen told Cummings.

An email from Media and Communications Manager Barbara Morrison explained why:

Per Jonathan Hobbs, Management and Budget Services, the difference in the amount for the City of Newport News was caused when the rate was inadvertently multiplied by the number of weeks in the year (52) and not by the number of months (12). This reduced the financial impact of that service to $366.60.”

A new chart was quickly updated after our interview showing a different number.

Original Report

Updated Report

Hansen explained the taxes per city may be different.

“If the assessed value of your house is less or more than the average assessment that’s used on that, then the taxes that you pay will be less or more,” he said.

However, the report can possibly help all citizens.

“You can ask those questions on, ‘What is the return on investment that I get for the dollars that I pay?’” Hansen said.

10 On Your Side contacted all of the Hampton Roads’ cities about the report.

Suffolk Public Information Officer Diana Klink said in email:

In response to your inquiry and interview request, please note that it is suggested that you reach out to each of the referenced jurisdictions so that they can provide their own actual dollar figures for tax rates as we aren’t certain as to how these figures were ascertained by Virginia Beach in their report.  As an example, upon initial review of the water and sewer charges  it is difficult to determine the basis they used for demand and whether HRSD charges have been included.  In fact, when we consider average usage our figures are actually lower than that which was indicated.  That is just one illustration of potential inaccuracies in these comparisons.  The following is a link to our tax rates:  http://www.suffolkva.us/DocumentCenter/View/59

When 10 On Your Side asked for an on camera interview to further the discuss the discrepancies, this was her response:

Brandi, we respectfully decline. These aren’t “apples to apples” comparisons, and we aren’t certain how Virginia Beach came up with their figures.

Robin McCormick, Communications Strategist, City of Hampton said:

I can’t tell where these numbers came from or how they got them. They are using some sort of formula to calculate impact, but I can’t tell what it is. For example, they say the admissions tax rate is the same in every city, but they come up with a smaller impact in Virginia Beach.

Real estate taxes are the biggest impact to homeowners. We generally calculate that we have one of the lower real estate property tax impacts. Although our tax rate is higher than some localities, our median home value is lower, making the median tax bill generally on the lower end for the region.

We list Hampton’s rates in several places, but they and others in the region are in the annual budget book. If you click on “Supplemental Information,” you’ll see those pages.

According to the city assessor, the median value of a single-family home in Hampton for fiscal year 2018 is $153,700. Applying our real estate tax rate of $1.24 per hundred of value gives Hampton a median tax bill of $1,905.88.

The mean value is $170,331, so the mean tax bill is a little higher: $2,111.72

That’s nowhere near the figure in the chart $2,937.56, and less than the others listed.

The Chief Financial Officer in Portsmouth, Alice Kelly, said:

For the chart below the City of VA Beach used VA Beach’s median home value to compare tax impacts. Using Portsmouth’s median home value the total impact for Portsmouth would be very close to VA Beach’s total tax impact or even a few dollars less. Different cities have different conditions that warrant different tax rates and fees. The number of non-taxable properties, storm water permit requirements, water treatment facilities etc. all have an impact on the rates and fees each city charges.”

We went back to Virginia Beach officials, asking them to address the concerns of the other cities. Spokeswoman Julie Hill said in email:

The issue the other cities have with the report is a function of the median value of a home. To make the comparisons, we use ONE value (the median price of homes and vehicles in Virginia Beach) and apply it to all the cities so it is a constant rather than variable comparison.

The City of Chesapeake on Wednesday sent a document to 10 On Your Side with information about the city’s current rates. Click here to see it.