Cape Charles citizens turned out in force Tuesday night at the Northampton Board of Supervisors Work Session to protest the new real estate tax reassessments at the County’s public hearing.

The hearing was for citizen input in a proposed 78.5 cent tax rate based on the new reassessed values.

14 citizens spoke and 22 letters were submitted to the County, all but one from Cape Charles, protesting the new values. Cape Charles experienced a massive increase in real estate prices over the last 10 years, exponentially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, many Cape Charles residents have seen a large increase in the amount of taxes they’ll pay annually, despite the lowered rate.

Susan Eidem of Cape Charles worried, should the real estate market collapse, many recent homebuyers will be underwater, a problem which would be exacerbated by an increase in taxes.

“We bought a house that was built in 1898 that needed extensive repair and maintenance. That house is now 124 years old and reported by the County to valued at 300% higher than we paid,” said Eidem whose family moved here from Tennessee. “The leaky roof, drafty windows and ineffefient HVAC systems have only decreased the livability of the home. If the taxes keep rising, we will not be able to make accommodations to live in place with our friends and neighbors. Doubling or tripling our property taxes during this COVID pandemic, artificially inflated real estate bubble means that some of these necessities will not get done. When the bubble bursts, and it will, our single biggest asset will be worse than when we bought it.”

Betsy Mapp responded citizens had recourse if they felt their reassessment was not fair or accurate.

“The real estate division of the Northampton County Commissioner of Revenue is required by law to assess each parcel of real estate in Northampton County at fair market value as of January 1 of the reassessment year,” said Mapp. “If you still have a question or concern regarding your assessment, we recommend that you speak with a staff member of the commissioner of revenue. To discuss your assessment please contact the real estate division at 757-678-0446.”

Supervisors Dixon Leatherbury and John Coker both spoke at length about the process of reassessing real estate and the issues the County faces, in addition to everyone, inflation in supplies and fuel costs, but also the need to construct a new high school and renovate both elementary schools.

Supervisor Coker made the motion to set a maximum tax rate at the advertised rate of 78.5 cents with a second from Leatherbury. The Board approved the motion unanimously.

According to Virginia code, the rate advertised and approved cannot be increased following the vote, but it can be lowered. Any new rate cannot exceed 1% growth of gross total collections. The actual rate will not be decided until the budget stalemate in Richmond is settled.

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