Acts of the Legislature of West Virginia
An Act to provide for the reassessment of the value of all real estate in this state.
[Passed August 11, 1904. In effect 90 days from passage. Approved August 12,
An Act to provide for the reassessment of the value of all real estate in this state.
[Passed August 11, 1904. In effect 90 days from passage. Approved August 12, 1904.]
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
Sec. 1. There shall be a reassessment of the value of the real estate in this state made for the year beginning the first day of January, nin[e]teen hundred and five, and according to the true and actual value thereof on that day.
Sec. 2. The state tax commissioner shall, within thirty days after this act takes effect, appoint one commissioner for each county in this state, who shall be a resident and freeholder thereof, and who shall not be a real estate broker or speculator in lands, whose duty it shall be to reassess the value of all the real estate in said county.
If any commissioner be of the opinion that it is impracticable to complete the assessment of the property in his county according to this act, and the instructions of the state tax commissioner, he may apply to the state tax commissioner for the appointment of an assistant, whose name and post office address he shall state in such application. If such application be approved by the state tax commissioner and the board of public works, the state tax commissioner may appoint such assistant, who shall take the same oath of office as the commissioner, and be allowed such compensation as the board of public works and the state tax commissioner shall think just and proper. Such assistant shall perform his work under the direction of the commissioner of his county and agreeably to the instructions of the state tax commissioner.
Sec. 3. Every commissioner so appointed shall, within twenty days after notice of his appointment, execute a bond with good security, to be approved by the county court of his county, or the clerk thereof in vacation, in the penalty of five thousand dollars, conditioned for the faithful performance of the duties of his office, and shall take an oath that he will support the constitution of the United States and the constitution of this state, and faithfully, honestly and impartially discharge the duties of his office to the best of his skill and judgment, and that he will neither directly nor indirectly receive or agree to receive any gift, reward or favor from the owner of any lands in his county, or any other person, to influence his action in making such assessment, and that he will without fear, favor, partiality or bias, assess all the real estate in his county according to its true and actual value, that is to say, at the price for which such property would sell if voluntarily offered for sale by the owner thereof upon the terms upon which such property is usually sold, and not the price which might be realized upon a forced sale. Such bond and oath shall be forthwith filed and. recorded in the office of the clerk of the county court, and the clerk shall, within ten days after such filing, certify copies thereof - one to the auditor and one to the state tax commissioner, and furnish therewith the post-office address of such commissioner. In case any such commissioner shall fail to qualify and give bond as herein required, or shall die or resign before completing the assessment, or the office shall for any cause become vacant, the state tax commissioner shall without delay appoint a successor; and in case any commissioner shall fail or refuse to promptly and with reasonable dispatch enter upon and complete the discharge of the duties of his office, the state tax commissioner shall declare said office vacant, and appoint a successor, who shall qualify as hereinbefore provided.
Sec. 4. The auditor shall, as soon as may be, cause to be provided for and furnished to each commissioner three books, similar in form to the assessor's land books, with such changes as the nature of the work may require. The state tax commissioner shall furnish each commissioner with specific instructions, describing in detail the manner in which he is to arrive at proper valuations of the real estate under the provisions of this act, and particularly under his oath of office, and the manner of making up his books and returns, and shall also furnish him with a copy of this act.
Sec. 5. Each commissioner so appointed and qualified shall, on the first day of January, nineteen hundred and five, proceed in person to examine all tracts of land and town lots, with all buildings and improvements thereon, in his county, and shall upon such examination and by the aid of all such information as he may be able to obtain, respecting their value, ascertain and assess the true and actual value thereof, that is to say, at the price for which such property would sell if voluntarily offered for sale by the owner thereof upon the terms upon which such property is usually sold, and not the price which might be realized upon a forced sale. In such valuation shall be taken into consideration any minerals, mineral waters, oils or gases which may underlie the surface of such lands; and as well the location of such land with reference to means of transportation for its products.
Sec. 6. In case the whole of or any interest in the minerals, mineral waters, oils, gases, coal, ore or timber, or any other assessable interest in real estate, be held by any person other than the owner of the other interests in said real estate, the same shall be assessed separately in the name of the owner thereof at its true and actual value. For the purpose of ascertaining the ownership of any such real estate or of any interest therein, as specified, in this section, and the value of the same, said commissioner shall have power to administer to and examine under oath the owner of such real estate or interest, his tenant or local agent, and also the owner of adjacent lands and. such other witnesses as he may deem proper. And. in case the owner of any such assessable interest in real estate shall fail to record in the county court clerk's office of such county the evidence of his title thereto, any person in interest may make and file or cause to be made and filed, in said. office, an affidavit showing the fact of such ownership; and the same shall be sufficient evidence to authorize the commissioner, and. as well the clerk of the county court for subsequent years, to assess such interest in the name of such owner. Any such owner refusing to answer on oath any pertinent question touching the matter of inquiry shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and fined, not less than twenty nor more than one hundred dollars.
Sec. 7. In ascertaining and fixing the value of any land. within the limits of any incorporated city, town, or village, or elsewhere, which has been laid off into lots and opened, up as lots by the construction and maintenance of roads and streets through the same, the commissioner shall adopt as the value of such land. the value thereof as so laid off into such lots, valuing the same by the lot and not by the acre or tract.
Sec. 8. The clerk of the county court shall furnish such commissioner a copy of the land books of his county for the year, nineteen hundred and four to aid him in making such assessment. The actual cost of making up such land book shall be allowed, said clerk, the same to be paid out of the county treasury.
Sec. 9. Upon the completion of his assessment, he shall make three copies thereof in the books so furnished him by the auditor, and append thereto his affidavit to the following effect:
"I, ............., commissioner, appointed to reassess the value of all the real estate, in the county of ............., do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I have diligently endeavored to ascertain the actual value of all the tracts of land, town lots and tenements, oil, gas, coal, ore, timber and other interests, properly chargeable in my county, and have entered the same in the foregoing record; that I have faithfully, fairly and impartially and without fear, favor or bias, assessed the same with the improvements thereon, at the true and actual value thereof, as defined in the law, and in making the said books I have followed the law and been guided by the instructions furnished me by the state tax commissioner for my guidance, and to the best of my ability and judgment: so help me, God.
One of said books shall be filed by the commissioner in the office of the clerk of the county court immediately upon their completion, to be used by said clerk as a guide in making up the land books. The other books shall be transmitted, one to the auditor and the other to the state tax commissioner. All such assessments shall be completed and the books filed as herein provided, on or before the first day of August, nineteen hundred and five.
Sec. 10. As soon as said books are filed with the clerk of the county court, the clerk shall publish a notice in form and substance as follows:
"Notice to taxpayers.
"The taxpayers of ............ county will take notice that the books of the reassessment of the value of the real estate of said county, made pursuant to the acts of the legislature passed at its extraordinary session held in nineteen hundred and four, have been filed in my office and are open to the inspection of any taxpayer of said county; and that the county court of said county will meet in special session at the court house of said county, on the first Tuesday of September, for the purpose of hearing the petition of any person aggrieved, by such reassessment, and all such aggrieved persons are hereby notified to make application to such term of the county court.
"Given under my hand this .... day of............. 1905.
"Clerk of the county court."
The clerk of the county court shall cause such notice to be published. once each week, for three successive weeks, before such special session, in two newspapers of general circulation published in the county, of opposite politics, if there be such. If there be no newspaper published in the county, then such notice shall be published in some newspaper of general circulation in the county, and the clerk of the county court shall also cause a sufficient number of such notices to be printed and sign the same, and deliver them to the sheriff, and it shall be the duty of the sheriff to post securely and conspicuously a copy of such notice at each post office in the county and at such other public places therein as he shall deem best; said notices to be posted at least three weeks before the date of said special session of the county court.
The county court shall meet in special session at the court house of the county at ten o'clock in the forenoon on the first Tuesday of the month of September, in the year nineteen hundred and five. The prosecuting attorney, and the commissioner who made the reassessment of the real estate, shall attend such session. Any person feeling himself aggrieved by the assessment of his property under this act shall present, by himself, agent or attorney, his petition for redress at said special term of the county court, staling therein the character of the correction or redress he desires. It shall be the duty of the prosecuting attorney to attend to the interest of the state and county and of each district therein at the hearing of such petition. The county court shall proceed to hear all such petitions as speedily as may be, and shall not adjourn said session longer than one week until all such petitions are heard and determined. If the state tax commissioner, the prosecuting attorney, or any taxpayer of the county, think any assessment is too low, or otherwise erroneous, he may apply to the county court to correct the same, giving to the owner of the property, his agent or attorney, at least five days' notice of such application. The county court shall carefully examine every assessment, and if they be of opinion that any assessment is too low or too high, or otherwise erroneous, they shall correct the same, giving the owner of the property, his agent or attorney, at least five days' notice previous to such action. If upon hearing the evidence offered, or upon inspection of the books, the county court shall be of opinion that there is error in the assessment under consideration or that the valuation thereof fixed by the commissioner is too high, the court shall make such order correcting the assessment as shall be just and proper. The right of appeal from any such order made by the county court shall be to the circuit court, and may be taken either by the applicant or the state; and in case the applicant or the state, by its prosecuting attorney or agent, desires to take an appeal from such order, the party desiring to take such appeal shall have the evidence taken at the hearing of such application certified by the county court, and such appeal, when allowed by the court, or judge in vacation, shall have precedence over all other cases pending in said court. A certified copy of any order entered in the county or circuit court making a change in any assessment, as is herein provided for, shall be transmitted by the clerk thereof to the auditor within twenty days after the entering of the same. Every such order shall show that the prosecuting attorney was present and defending the interests of the state. In the event it shall be ascertained that the land has been assessed too high and the owner has paid the excess of such taxes, the court shall order that the excess be refunded, to him; and if not paid, that he be relieved from the payment of such excess. No costs on such application shall in any event be taxed against the state or the applicant. The prosecuting attorney shall forthwith notify the state tax commissioner of any appeal from any order entered by the county court under this act.
Sec. 11. For the services rendered by each commissioner, under this act, he shall be allowed, for each day actually and diligently employed, such amount as may be fixed by the board of public works before his appointment, to be paid out of the state treasury; his account for services to be verified by his affidavit and presented to the state tax commissioner, and by him approved and certified to the auditor for payment. But the total compensation of such commissioner shall not in any case exceed such amount as shall be fixed for the county by the board of public works. Any commissioner failing or refusing to complete his work within the time required shall forfeit his right to compensation hereunder, unless upon good cause shown to the state tax commissioner. The cost of publishing, printing and posting the notices, required by section ten of this act, shall be audited by the county court of the county and paid out of the county treasury.
Sec. 12. The board of public works shall be and constitute a board of review and equalization for this state. Said board of equalization shall review, correct and equalize the reassessment in the several counties and any inequalities therein, and may either raise or lower such assessments in any one or more counties, to the end that the assessment shall be according to the true and actual value of the property in the several counties of the state, and that the relative assessments in the several counties may be right and just. Said board shall sit at the scat of government, and at such other places in the state as they may think best, and hear any evidence or argument that may be offered pertinent to the inquiry on behalf of any county, and may raise or lower the average valuation of property in such county, and in any other county or counties, in order that the true and actual value of all the property in the state may be arrived at. The board may summon such witnesses and hear and examine such other evidence as they may deem necessary.
The state tax commissioner shall be present at the sittings of the board, and furnish said board all such information a.s he shall have or may be able to procure in relation to, and shall advise with said board respecting, the review so to be made by it. When said board shall have completed its labors, it shall report the result thereof to the auditor, who shall forthwith certify the same to the clerk of the county court of each county, who shall, in his future actions in respect to the assessment of real estate within his county, be governed thereby.
Sec. 13. The reassessment made under the provisions of this act shall apply to and. govern the taxes for state, county, district and municipal purposes to be levied and collected for the year nineteen hundred and six, and until the next assessment.
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