The real property assessment function will be shifted to the Loudoun County Commissioner of the Revenue for the first time since the 1980s, the county Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday.
Following the recommendation from the board’s finance and government operations committee, as well as the board-appointed Government Reform Commission, the supervisors followed through with a proposal to transfer the maintenance of appraisal and property records from a county assessor department to the elected office of commissioner of revenue, currently held by Republican Bob Wertz.
Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn), chairman of the finance committee, said the move eliminates any appearance of impropriety. Buona explained that in the past, when the assessment duties fell within the county assessor’s department, the board had direct control and oversight of that office.
Transferring the assessment functions to the commissioner revenue in essence puts the acting assessor—the commissioner of revenue—and the board of supervisors, who set the real estate tax rate, on an even plain. Moreover, the commissioner of revenue was already responsible for commercial assessments, Buona noted.
Wertz has stated to the board he was willing to take on the additional duties, which include overseeing the all operations of the county assessor office.
More than 30 employees currently serving in the assessor’s office will now be under the watch of the commissioner of revenue.
In the 1980s, the Loudoun County assessor functions were moved from the revenue commissioner’s office to the county’s finance department, where it remained until 2006, at which point the board created a separate assessor’s department. At that time, the assessor became one of three county employees hired directly by the Board of Supervisors.
The assessor-revenue commissioner transfer will become effective later this month.
On Dec. 4, the Loudoun County Democratic Committee (LCDC) sent out a statement opposing the switch. The LCDC called to attention the fact Wertz is an active fundraiser for the Virginia 10th Congressional District Republican Committee.
“The proposed merger risks significant corruption or conflicts of interest by putting near-complete power over the county revenue base in the hands of an official who takes campaign contributions and is actively involved in partisan politics,” the statement notes.
Members of the all-Republican Board of Supervisors laughed off those charges, saying if the Democrats were concerned about politics playing a role in property assessment, the LCDC could have also been critical of the previous assessor structure. With a county assessor department, the Board of Supervisors had direct control over the hiring or firing of the county assessor.
Former Loudoun County Assessor Todd Kaufman was fired in June after a series of closed-door discussions and a controversial placement on administrative leave.
Kaufman has filed a lawsuit against the county for defamation of character.
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