Spotsylvania News

Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

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Killing a rumor

I will make this real short:

The Board of Supervisors did not vote on, propose or enact any policy that would charge all county residents for public water and sewer services. In fact, the Board of Supervisors did not even come close to doing so. Two supervisors brought up the idea for discussion, and they were trying to make a point.

As Supervisor Gary Jackson said in an article published Jan. 15, if the county is going to make all taxpayers cover the costs of development that is not paying its way or cover the costs of fees that were reduced in a failed attempt to increase permits and fees collected, then why not have all county residents pay for water and sewer service.

Supervisors discussed it, Supervisor Emmitt Marshall had a fit, and that was it. 

I am surprised the rumor is still out there, even after writing the Jan. 15 article. Maybe the FLS Web director should put this on the front page of with a bold headline to finally put this ridiculous rumor to bed. 


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  • gramps

    Sometimes killing a rumor is harder than putting toothpaste back in the tube.

  • dantelvock

    Everyone makes mistakes. I’ve screwed up votes before, and I correct them.

    But there wasn’t a 5-2 vote that entire night. The person who told people this happened was in the audience and fabricated the entire discussion. That’s not good and it’s riled a lot of people.

  • gramps

    the LTE should have been edited and discussed with the author prior to publication. Does the FLS not do fact checking on LTEs?

  • dantelvock

    I am not saying anything about it. I don’t know how they operate upstairs. From time to time they do have me look at letters, but I did not know this one was coming. I could have saved everyone the trouble if I saw it first.

  • lgross

    all day _iss and moan rant… cool it.

  • gramps

    you have a real ornery streak in you Larry. lol

  • lgross

    THANKS! :-)

  • caroldarby

    I am so glad you cleared that one up, Dan. I always watch the board meetings but was busy doing a hundred things while listening. I was SURE the Board didn’t vote on it (they just argued) and when I saw that editorial I THOUGHT I was losing my mind. LOL!

  • caroldarby

    I was just catching up old blogs about the water sewer issue. I wanted to let Larryg know that it is ALREADY “mandatory” to pump your septic every 5 years under the Chesapeake Bay Act. I got my letter and had to prove that I had already pumped. The County is assisting with this State mandate; I read somewhere that they won’t throw you in jail for non-compliance but who wants to find out?

    Also, I agree with the gent who addressed Supervisor Jackson’s comment about us well/septic owners also using public drinking water. The business or entity already pays the fee for THEIR water use and I pay the business/entity for goods or services which help defray those costs. I might add that NO ONE paid the $6,000 tab when I had to drill a “new well” during the drought some years back. (My developer had put in a 30-ft. bored well, which the County allowed, that was not sufficient.)

  • lgross

    after getting a letter but there is no follow-up/enforcement yet as far as I know.

    but there are new, additional, stricter rules for septic on the horizon with the
    advent of the TMDL approach.

    You can find out more by using search terms like ” TMDL septic systems
    Chesapeake Bay” in GOGGLE.

    Here’s one article that pulled up:

    As talk of TMDLs turns into action, here’s what you should know

    and down in the article:

    ” As part of those plans, states must identify the amount of reductions that will
    come from wastewater treatment plants, farms, animal feedlots, stormwater,
    septic systems, air deposition, eroding stream banks and tidal shorelines, and
    other sources.”

    then this:

    ” Md. Bill Mandates Nitrogen-Removing Septic Systems Near Bay”

    All new homes built within 1,000 feet of the Chesapeake Bay or its tributaries in
    Maryland will be required to have nitrogen-removing septic systems, under
    legislation passed this year by the General Assembly.

    The measure, which is expected to be signed into law by the governor, will also
    require failing septic systems within “critical areas” to be replaced with nitrogen-
    removing systems that are generally more expensive.

    so the point here – that what is driving the need for spending billions on the
    Massaponax wastewater treatment is – the belief that even stricter regs are
    coming down about nitrogen removal – which is believed to be one of the major
    substances that are degrading the bay.

    The new regs will also, at some point address, septic systems …. ” An average
    septic system upgrade, plus five years of maintenance, costs approximately

    Maryland has developed a fund from fees and then they inspect systems and
    direct upgrades to the ones they believe need them.

    So.. the costs are not just going to be for municipal systems but private septic
    systems also.

    I’m not sure the BOS had this in mind during their discussion… because it sounds
    like they way they were talking that septic system owners would get to pay twice…
    once for the municipal systems they don’t use and then again for their own private

    The costs for new septic systems will drive the price of homes using septic
    systems up another 10-20K if new laws require the newer systems.

    nothing is set in stone right now… most all of it is in the form of proposals under
    consideration… at the EPA, regional and state levels.

    For those who say they are concerned about the Chesapeake Bay – we will soon
    see how much the costs to help fix it will be – on a per home basis – and it’s not
    going to be cheap.

  • caroldarby

    Larry, do you mean there is no follow-up again in 5 years or do you mean no follow up if you don’t pump as the compliance letter requested?

    Also, my real estate tax assessment bill includes an amount for being on well and septic so aren’t I already paying twice? I guess I would have to see if people on public water and sewer have a line item for that on their assessment bills.

  • gramps

    I looked on my property tax assessment bills and I found no line charging me for well or septic. I have property that has well and septic and I have property on public utility service. Do not understand why you would have such a line on yours.

  • lgross

    attributes… well & septic noted as such (I think)
    but no charges… you’re charged for what the
    property is assessed at.

    Two properties exactly alike in all respects except
    for water/sewer or well/septic… water/sewer
    usually assesses higher.

    in terms of pump-out follow up.. I do not see any
    deadline dates nor penalties (like you’d see for
    taxes)…. so in terms of what would be done if
    you did not bring your pump-out receipt to the
    county office (like I did).. I’m not sure how they
    track you and compliance.. nor what the penalties
    would be if you did not have the work done.

    here’s county web page on the subject:

    here’s some more info…

    note this: ” Also, as an
    alternative to providing proof
    of septic tank pump-out every
    five years, owners may submit
    documentation, certified by a
    sewage handler, permitted by
    the Virginia Department of
    Health, that the septic system
    has been inspected, is functioning
    properly, and the tank(s)
    does not need to have the
    effluent pumped out.”

  • caroldarby

    I just looked at the breakdown on my 2009 assessment (detail pages that you must obtain from the assessment office) and it has a line item of $5,000 for well and $5,000 for septic. It is listed along with the assessments for my pool, screened porch, etc. for a total miscellaneious charge of $16,000 which is added to my land and building values. I remember some years back of asking them WHY they charge me for well and septic, but can’t remember the answer other than that they use some book to determine what values they use to assign a cost.

  • caroldarby

    With regard to my earlier post about the “definite assessment” of my well and septic, I have no way to know what the assigned value is if you are on public water and sewer; maybe it is the same amount; I am on 5 acres so maybe they assign it a value based on property size. But it IS added in dollar for dollar.

    As for the pump-out program, Larry is right that you can submit proof of inspection by a certified sewage handler (provided they are approved by Dept. of Health) every 5 years OR you have the option of having a plastic filter installed and maintained in the outflow pipe from the tank to filter solid material from the effluent . . . Seems the County told me it was around $60 to get the certified inspection. I think it was the BOS discussing what the penalties would be and no one knew — it may have been T.C. saying something like “what are they going to do, haul you to jail if you don’t comply?” Either way, I would certainly hope the supervisors wouldn’t consider making me pay AGAIN on my taxes (thru the general fund, or whatever) for water useage!

  • lgross

    I think… that when they assess your property..
    they assign values to the improvements. A
    screen porch, a garage, a a deck, a barn, etc….
    but I was not aware that they put a value on your
    well/septic… that’s sounds creative to me. Do
    they also assign a value to your driveway? Do
    they differentiate between the value of a 30ft
    bored well and a 300 ft drilled well or a drainfield
    that services 2 bedrooms verses a larger one that
    serves 5 bedrooms?

    Of course.. they apparently think a undeveloped
    5 acre lot is worth 150K now days… I don’t know
    too many folks that would pay 150K for a vacant
    5 acre lot … do ya’ll?

  • caroldarby

    I intended to call over to the assessment office today (now it’s too late) and ask a couple of those very questions. I think many of the categories on our assessments are “creative” ways to assess more money. I pay $2400 a year for the stone on the front-side of my house (which I did to make it look a little different than my neighbors). The initial cost for the stone when I built the house was around $3200; do you know how much that stone has cost me over the last 20 years? Riduculous paying over and over for a design element!

    I’ll let you know later if they assess the same rate for public water and sewer, etcf.

  • lgross

    do you REALLY pay $2400 JUST for the stone or is
    that your total ?

  • caroldarby

    Larry, I wonder if I am incorrect about those initials preceding that total of $2400. I wonder if that could be my ashpalt driveway? The initials are PDAS. You need a degree to figure out all their codes. But, I am telling you that the assessment people told me a long time ago that I was being assessed more for the stone portion. In another section on my assessment there are line items that say:

    Frame, Siding, Vinyl 75 units $108,693
    Veneer, Stone 25 units 43,303

    Either way you cut it, they are including extra for the stone. I will certainly call them on Monday to REFRESH my memory and to also ask about the water and sewer. I looked at two other people’s assessments I had in my folder and BOTH of them with MORE acreage than mine (over 5 and 6 acres) had $5,000 assessed for well and $5,000 for septic.

  • gramps

    The detail cd presents sounds more like a real estate appraisal for a mortgage than it does a tax assessment??

  • lgross

    assessments are supposed to be based on fair market
    value – which means an appraisal-type process.

    In fact, I’m pretty sure the county hires real estate
    professionals to do the appraisals.

    A few years ago, I questioned the appraisal on a 3 acre
    parcel that I own that cannot be built on because it is in
    the flood pool of the Ni River reservoir. They were
    appraising it as if it was buildable.

    They did change it but it took one more assessment to
    remind them again.. when the value went back up.

    But… unless they change.. they still value a 5-acre
    undeveloped lot without access to water/sewer at 150K
    and the taxes are substantial and I think unwarranted.

  • caroldarby

    The Assessment Office has a group of in-house appraisers/assessors that each have their own assigned area. We have had the same one in Waterford for years. When I questioned my assessment years ago, he went over the comps he had pulled on prior 6-month sales and he was pretty much on the money. However, lacking those HIGH comps of years gone by, I was trying to figure out how they raised my asessment last year. Of course, we all know they used the LAND values to do that. I think they assumed we wouldn’t be able to figure out how much a 5-acre parcel would sell for (in actuality) and assigned some variable to all the land in Spotsy to come up with these over-inflated values on the land. (My own 5 acre parcel is assessed at $121,399 even though I only paid $32,500 as a lot allowance to my builder when we bought the house and land back in 1989. We KNOW land didn’t jump that much in the last 20 years.)

    What I know for sure they do on larger parcels, is they assign a high value on the 1 acre the house sits on. Then all the other acres are assigned a lower value per acre to make up the total land value. Mine, for example, is:

    Homesite 1 acre Unit Price $86,000
    Wooded 3.89 acres Unit Price of 9,000
    per acre
    for a total of = $35,399
    Total Land Value = $121,399

    Since my total is NOT $150,000 for 5 acres, they must use some different variable for land that is
    developed on. Of course, in your case, Larry, you were able to appeal to let them know some of your land is un-useable and then they are happy to lower it (with proper proof, of course).

    I do not see the County’s assessment system as an exact science — they have been doing it for a long time and once they haven’t had appeals, they assume their assessments are correct and so they become the standard for future assessment. At least that’s the way I see it.

    Years ago, I served on the Board of Equalization (a group of peers that listen to a resident’s appeal of his/her assessment) and I did not like the idea that we (as a group) could change someone’s value just because we thought their story sounded compelling. A lot of it is pure speculation. I would never serve again, but that was mostly due to my lack of understanding on how they computed commercial property and I did not feel equipped to decide whether or not their assessments were correct.

  • lgross

    interesting. thanks for sharing.

    I erred.. after checking it’s 145,500 for the land
    and 140,000 for the bld a 34-year old split-foyer.

    I have a hard time believing that a lot for a
    home has a market value of 140K+ …

    sound like if someone went to the BOE on this
    they might get some sympathy….

    I see trouble coming and here’s why. The BOS is
    more than likely going to have to equalize the
    rate to maintain the revenues budgeted and that
    means the folks who have high assessments are
    going to get whacked… pretty good I suspect –
    those folks total taxes could actually go up –

  • caroldarby

    Yes, I fear many of us will get wacked. The sad part is that while a lot of people aren’t getting raises (if they are lucky enough to have a job)the county can go right on taxing us to make up for all the shortfalls. They always CLAIM to equalize the tax rate, but I’ve not felt the way they do it has been fair in the past. Unless you want to spend your life going into to contest your assessment (which takes a lot of preparation) you just continue to pay.

    I know about 6 or 7 years ago I looked at some land around Berkeley District and a 5-acre lot was going for under $125,000; actually, I wouldn’t give anyone that much for any of the properties I saw! So, if values are SO down more recently how can land assessments be so high? If the County artificially inflates ALL the land, how can you go in and argue that your assessment is to high?

  • caroldarby

    As promised, I called over to the assessment office to see if all County residents are charged the same whether on public water and sewer or private well and septic. Each and every property in the county is assessed $5,000 for well, $5,000 for septic, $5,000 for water and $5,000 for sewer (as an improvement) whichever applies to you. So, the typical residence will have $10,000 included as an “improvement” which is added into the fair market value. Businesses have the same although their overall value is figured using the “income approach.”

    So, in my estimation, the County (BOS) cannot and should not ever consider charging anything to those on well and septic; they are already being assessed. The County has the responsibility to maintain the infrastructure of public utilities but they need to charge the people who requested the infrastructure to begin with and/or the business who is benefiting from it; just like those of us on well and septic have to pay to maintain and/or replace ours. Maybe they would like to help me pay every 5 years the $175-$200 for pumping that is a mandate from the State. I would have been delighted to have help when I spent $5,500 on a new well when my ran dry about 5 years ago.

    Enough of this subject! :>)

  • gramps

    Very enlightening and interesting information. Thank you cd. Members of the BOS “cybercruise” here at times. Hope they read very carefully what you have presented.

  • caroldarby

    You are welcome. I wish the Board would read these posts regularly. It is too hard to e-mail or contact them for all these issues. They could learn from us too!

    According to today’s paper, this is supposedly a non-issue. Let’s hope it remains that way. :)

  • lgross

    If you buy a house in an area served by
    water/sewer – you must pay for the hookup –
    somewhere around 10K I believe…. similar to
    what a well/septic would cost…

    so BOTH pay about 10K to …..get water/sewer

    that’s for the “capital” investment – the

    then you have operational and maintenance
    costs – called O&M.

    and this is where the discussion centered was on
    WHO should be paying for the O&M – and why.

    Now the taxes you pay are based on an
    assessment of what your house is worth – based
    on various factors – to INCLUDE the
    water/sewer/well/septic infrastructure. They are
    apparently treating those things just like if you
    had a garage or a gazebo.

    So charging you TAXES for the assessed value of
    your assets that you own – to include your
    well&septc is not the same as charging you a fee
    for the maintenance & operation of your stuff.

    The maintenance and operation costs of your well
    & septic are your personal responsibility and the
    county does not “charge” you – or else you’ be
    calling them to fix your system when it

    But the folks who are on county-provided
    water/sewer – ARE paying for the county to
    maintain – and operate the system.

    and it is THIS charge that was at the root of the

    BECAUSE… the county… is.. IN ADDITION to
    charging for O&M.. it needs to ADD ON an
    ADDITIONAL fee to pay for the bonds they
    obtained to build the infrastructure to start with.

    Now … if you think about this… those folks in
    those homes with water/sewer ALREADY PAID
    their hook-up fees when they bought their
    home…their “share” of the capital costs and NOW
    they are effect .. being retroactively pay
    MORE… (because the bonds are due and they
    are not selling enough new hookups).

    So.. these folks are being double-charged.

    It would be as if the guy you paid to put in your
    well & septic showed up two years later and was
    having financial troubles and told you that he
    originally did not charge you enough to cover his
    longer term expenses – and he wants you to pay
    more to make up for him not charging you
    enough to start with?

    anything I’ve said here sound wrong?