New Assessor to Inherit Compliance Issues

The West Virginia Department of Revenue informed Wetzel County leaders that the county’s procedures for determining land values aren’t in compliance with state practices.

Now Wetzel County Commissioner Scott Lemley – who was elected county assessor on Nov. 6 – will inherit a mandate from the state that new procedures be crafted and brought before the Property Valuation Training and Procedures Commission when it meets Jan. 16. Lemley takes office Jan. 1.

Retiring Assessor Ralph Phillips, meanwhile, said he had not intended to leave non-compliance issues for his successor. He blames the commissioners for not acting to approve a contract he arranged earlier this year with an independent assessor to determine values of property in Wetzel County.

In its report, the commission said the Wetzel County Assessor’s Office “has had deficiencies in the last four tax years that materially affect value” of land in the county. The quality of real estate data collection – as evidenced by a physical review of randomly selected parcels – does meet acceptable standards, it continued.

But the commission noted the procedures used by the Wetzel County Assessor’s office “to develop land tables, neighborhoods and modifiers to maintain current market value appraisal do not meet acceptable standards.” In addition, the procedures used by the Wetzel County assessor “to achieve appraisal uniformity between sold and unsold properties do not meet acceptable standards.”

The office requests the county assessor, or a staff member, attend the next commission meeting Jan. 16 in Flatwoods, W.Va. The assessor is directed to bring with him a detailed plan for review by the commission that details how the county plans to address the deficiency issues identified by the commission.

“I will inherit some complex non-compliance issues,” Lemley acknowledged. “I will just deal with them.”

Phillips said his appraiser in the office had quit this year, and rather than hiring someone to fill the job he arranged for a contract with an independent appraiser to do the work. Commissioners never approved the contract, he said.

Lemley said he will be sworn in as assessor on Friday but won’t officially take office until the start of next year.

Commissioners Robert Gorby and Don Mason, meanwhile, now are accepting resumes from those wanting to fill Lemley’s seat on the commission. These should be mailed to P.O. Box 156 , New Martinsville, WV 26155.

Applications will be accepted through Dec. 18, and Lemley expects the next commissioner will be chosen soon after he leaves the commission.

Lemley, a resident of Hundred, represents Magisterial District 1 on the commission. The next commissioner must of the same party affiliation as Lemley, a Democrat, and be a registered voter living within Wetzel County.

The unexpired term lasts through Dec. 31, 2014.