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The Board of Supervisors made some important decisions during Tuesday night's meeting:
A sharp increase in property values has taken place across the Country, and that increase has also been reflected in Pittsylvania County’s 2022 reassessment process. To account for the influx of concerns and questions from property owners that have stemmed from this increase, Pittsylvania County is extending the 2022 reassessment process. An extension of up to 90 days has been granted by the Circuit Court. This will allow for the improvement of the customer service experience for County property owners and will allow the Virginia Department of Taxation to serve in an advisory capacity.
"There have been many unusual circumstances that have impacted Pittsylvania County's 2022 reassessment process," said Bob Warren, Chairman of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors. "With the drastic rise in property values, we believe that this 90-day extension will ensure that adequate review can occur and will allow more property owners to have appeals meetings with Brightminds.”
The Board of Supervisors passed a motion approving the extension, the County's engagement with the Virginia Department of Taxation, and negotiations for additional meetings with Brightminds.
Pittsylvania County is required to complete the reassessment process by the end of 2021, but this extension, as allowed by State Code 58.1-3257, grants an additional three months before the new values are certified and moved into the County records. This brings the final deadline to March 31, 2022.
Some of the factors that have led to the need for an extension include:
Pittsylvania County staff filed the extension petition in Circuit Court on Monday morning, and the request was granted later that day.
Brightminds staff conducted over a thousand appeals meetings with Pittsylvania County property owners between December 6 and 17. However, due to the increase in property values that occurred over the past four years, more property owners than was expected have requested to meet with Brightminds. Brightminds was not able to meet with every property owner that requested a meeting; some property owners still have not heard from Brightminds. Extending the reassessment certification deadline will allow for every interested property owner to meet with Brightminds and appeal their property’s assessed value before it goes into the County’s official records. The County is actively working with Brightminds to attempt to schedule additional informal meetings with County property owners in January of 2022.
These informal appeals meetings with Brightminds' staff serve as a substitute for the Board of Assessors – an alternative reassessment appeals method that Pittsylvania County utilized in the past. Those who are unsatisfied with the results of these meetings with Brightminds can still make a formal appeal to the Board of Equalization, which is expected to convene in the Spring of 2022.
“Providing excellent customer service is a top priority for Pittsylvania County government in all areas, and that is especially true during this reassessment process,” said Vic Ingram, Tunstall District Supervisor who made the motion to authorize the extension. “We believe that this extension will allow us to adequately serve our residents and property owners by giving more time for these appeals meetings.”
Legally required by the Commonwealth of Virginia, reassessment is when up-to-date property values are determined for an entire locality or municipality. Updated values are determined through photographs, aerial images, and observations from a trained crew of property assessors. There are many complicated formulas and factors involved in determining and updating property values, which are kept by the Commissioner of the Revenue and used for taxation.
Pittsylvania County hired Brightminds in June of 2020 to complete the reassessment process, and preliminary work began in the summer of 2020. After more than a year of work visiting and viewing properties, conducting sales studies, and developing valuation tables, updated valuations were mailed out in November of 2021. As a whole, the assessed value of Pittsylvania County rose approximately 22% between the 2018 and 2022 reassessments. The increase in residential properties was 33%. You can view an interactive map of County properties and the sales study that Brightminds developed here. You can also learn more about the reassessment process.
The Board of Supervisors approved three siting agreements for several solar projects across Pittsylvania County. Yielding approximately $41.6 million in County revenue over 35 years, these siting agreements will help the County pay for a variety of upcoming, unavoidable capital projects.
“We believe that our solar ordinance, which requires siting agreements and includes stringent buffering and landscaping requirements, allows solar development to happen in a way that minimizes any visual impacts and positively impacts our community,” said Bob Warren, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
Now that these siting agreements have been approved, the entities behind each of these projects can begin the special use permitting process through the County’s Department of Community Development. Additional permitting will also need to be obtained from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
The agreements that were approved are the Suntribe Siting Agreement, Firefly Siting Agreement, and Strata Solar Siting Agreement. (The Strata Solar Agreement includes three separate projects). Collectively, these three agreements total 527 megawatts of energy generation. You can view a map of the proposed projects here.
The approval of these projects comes after the Board of Supervisors made significant changes to the County’s Solar Ordinance during its November meeting. These changes included an increase to the buffering and landscape requirements a reduction to the required distance between solar projects from five miles to one mile. Another change to the Ordinance was the requirement that any applicant for a utility-scale solar facility should initiate negotiations with the County for a siting agreement, as authorized by recent legislation from the General Assembly, before beginning to apply for rezoning or a special use permit.
Through these siting agreements, the County will receive approximately $7.9 million in upfront payments – which will be paid between the special use permit application and the dates when the projects begin commercial electrical production, depending on the project. After those upfront payments, the County will receive approximately $33.7 million in tax revenue over the next 35 years. Each of these agreements vary in the payment structure.
Per State Code, the revenue from these siting agreements must be used for capital projects and broadband expansion efforts. Pittsylvania County has a variety of large, unavoidable capital projects on the horizon in the near future. These include building a new jail and a new courthouse, renovations and repairs across the County School system, and work to enhance two dams. The new jail is expected to cost approximately $18-$20 million, the new courthouse $49 million. The County and the Town of Chatham will be required to pay approximately $7 million for the improvements of the Cherrystone and Roaring Fork Dams in the next several years as well.
The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved 10% raises for all sworn law enforcement officers in pay grades 101 to 106 in response to rising law enforcement salaries across our region. Since the pay with Pittsylvania County is significantly lower than some other surrounding jurisdictions and the Virginia State Police, the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Department has had difficulties recruiting and retaining qualified employees.
For instance, the City of Danville recently elevated the starting salary for new police officers to $45,000. In the City of Lynchburg, the starting salary is $50,000. Before Tuesday’s vote, in Pittsylvania County, that number was just $38,039.
“We are grateful to the Board of Supervisors for their taking constructive steps in improving pay classifications to the recruitment and retention of qualified applicants for the Sheriff’s Office deputies,” said Pittsylvania County Sheriff Mike Taylor. “By the Board taking this step it will certainly allow our office to be in a much better competitive position for hiring purposes. It has always been our goal to recruit, hire and retain the most qualified individuals that can serve our citizens for years to come.”
On the whole, Pittsylvania County has made significant efforts in recent years to elevate employee salaries to an appropriate, competitive range. This allows the County to both recruit and retain quality employees. In the Sheriff’s Department, which is the most extreme example, the average sheriff's office and jail salaries have increased by 24% since fiscal year 2018 due to the implementation of salary study recommendations and state-required raises for sworn in constitutional officers. These 10% raises will bring that total to 34%.
There are a total of 143 positions in the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Department. Approximately 102 of these are funded by the Virginia compensation Board. The County fully funds an additional 35 positions and supplements the income in the Compensation Board funded positions as well.
“It’s important that we offer competitive wages so that we can fill our law enforcement and corrections positions with quality candidates,” said Ron Scearce, Vice-Chairman of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors who made the motion to increase the salaries. “Increasing the salary of our Sheriff’s Office is a necessary step at this time.”
For the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30, these salary increases will cost approximately $350,000, and those costs will be covered by vacancy savings from open positions across the County.
The Board of Supervisors officially and unanimously adopted Redistricting Plan A, which most closely resembles the current boundaries for Pittsylvania County's seven election districts. These new district lines, which are used for local Board of Supervisors and School Board elections, are being sent to the State Attorney General for certification.
This selection came after nearly two months of consideration of three different redistricting plans. During a called meeting on December 1, the Board of Supervisors decided to advertise Plan A as the preferred redistricting plan.
You can learn more about Pittsylvania County's redistricting process on our website.
State Code requires that the redistricting process be completed every 10 years in concert with the United States Census. Each electoral district should have a roughly equal population, must be compact and contiguous, and must be drawn using the most up-to-date census data. There are many requirements that must be considered, and the Board of Supervisors also passed a resolution spelling out that criteria during its August meeting. Based on the County’s prison-adjusted population of 60,170, each district's optimum population is 8,569 residents. No district should deviate by more than 5% and there cannot be a total maximum deviation of 10%. The 2020 Census rendered Pittsylvania County’s current districts untenable, as the Banister District deviated by -11.3%, or 975 residents, and the Westover District by 7.4%, or 638 residents – meaning that the total deviation was more than 18%.
During the month of November, Pittsylvania County held a public comment period, where County residents could submit feedback in-person, online, via email, and at a public hearing before the Board of Supervisors. Approximately 39 people submitted feedback.