Assessor shortfall may cost School Board $878,000
by Ron Gregory firstname.lastname@example.org
HAMLIN — A former State Senator who later served as Lincoln County’s Assessor is accused of failing to meet state standards for his Assessor office, according to a statement from current Assessor Josh Brumfield.
Brumfield said, in a prepared statement, that the office of former Assessor Tracy Dempsey had failed to comply with five of six sections included in a State Tax Department audit for 2012. Brumfield defeated Dempsey in the May 2012 primary election and assumed office on January 1 of this year.
Brumfield had warned earlier of possible repercussions from failure to adhere to State Code. He said a meeting with Faith Dangerfield of the Tax Department on August 26 “confirmed my worst fears.” Brumfield described the meeting with Dangerfield as an “exit conference” summarizing an audit that took place on June 6, 2013.
The Assessor said the audit performed by Dangerfield is “a performance summary of the Assessor’s office from the previous year, 2012,” when Dempsey was in office.
Dempsey, of Harts, represented the district that includes Lincoln, Boone and Logan counties as a State Senator for four years before being elected Assessor in 2008. He continues to serve as Lincoln’s Democrat Executive Committee Chair.
“As expected, based on my conversations earlier this year with the state, the results from the audit were very disappointing,” Brumfield said. “I have inherited an assessor’s office where the previous administration failed five out of the six sections of the audit. While I am very disturbed and frustrated by the WV State Tax Commission report, I have been elected to do a job and I am committed to cleaning up the mess.”
Brumfield continued, “The audit unfortunately confirms what I conveyed at the county commission and school board meetings earlier this year, the previous administration failed the specific section of the audit regarding “Appraisal Evaluation” or sales ratio. This is the section of the audit in which the State Tax Department examines and makes the determination if a county is in violation of State Law 11-1C-5b (Senate Bill 541). This law mandates that appraisals must be at 90% of market value or the school board will receive a financial penalty. The audit also confirmed, as I warned earlier this year, a sales ratio of 51%, which means if the governor does not deliver an exemption for Lincoln County in the upcoming special WV legislative session, the school board will in fact be stricken with an estimated $878,000 penalty. I would like to emphasize, I have been and will continue to be in conversation with state officials supporting an exemption for Lincoln County.”
The Assessor went on, “according to information I received from the state, only three counties — Lincoln, Wyoming and Monongalia — failed this particular section of the audit and are in violation of state law.”
Dempsey has consistently maintained that Brumfield is misinforming the public about the situation. He has insisted to local media that his office was in “full compliance” with state standards when he left office.
Brumfield concluded, however, “I have met with my current staff and shared with them the deficiencies that we have been charged with correcting. I have made it clear, it is the goal of this Assessor to pass all areas of the audit for next year. As we move forward we will create and execute an action plan to achieve that goal. As I conveyed to my staff, they are not to blame for the mess, but under my leadership we are responsible for fixing it.”
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