(Editor’s Note: Both Democratic candidates in the race for Ohio County Assessor were asked to reply to five questions concerning the future leadership of the office. The stories will be published based on the order the replies were received from a total of 16 candidates running for Assessor, the Board of Education, County Clerk, and County Sheriff.)
The arrival of the gas and oil industries was accompanied by grand challenges for the assessors in impacted counties, and Ohio County was included as soon as Chesapeake Energy assumed the rights to all of the well pads initially developed within its borders.
Kathie Hoffman, newly elected in 2008, was met with confusion concerning those properties and hundreds of others that were included in the company’s harvesting plan because property values were undoubtedly increasing because new monies were being earned by county residents. But Hoffman, who had five years of experience in the Ohio County Assessor’s Office when first taking office, sought the guidance from the other assessors, including Marshall County Assessor Chris Kessler.
Hoffman would be named the state’s Assessor of the Year in 2012. She now possesses nearly 25 years of tax collection experience in Ohio County, beginning with her tenure in the assessor’s office, 11 years with the Ohio County Sheriff’s Tax Department, and the past eight as Ohio County’s assessor.
An active member of the West Virginia Association of Assessors, Hoffman also is a member of the Our Lady Peace Parish, a board member for the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph’s Auxiliary, and she and her husband, Tom, raised two children. Tom Jr. resides in the Triadelphia area, and Tiffany lives in Elm Grove.
Why have you chosen to run for this position at this time?
When I ran for office in 2008, I ran on the platform of a, “full-time working assessor,” and I have kept that promise and continue to work full-time. The assessor is not just an, “elected position”; it is a job!
I want to continue the work that I have started.
I have 23 years of experience in tax collections and appraisals, and when I took office in 2009 the Ohio County Assessor’s Office was completely out of compliance with the rules and regulations of the W.Va. State Tax Department and the Public Valuation Commission. Under my direction, we are in complete compliance in all areas, including mapping.
In 2012, I was named Assessor of the Year, an accomplishment of which I am extremely proud!
How important do you believe online services are at this time when it comes to the operation of the Ohio County Assessor’s Office?
In 2009, I choose to create a website to better serve the taxpayers. Over the last eight years my IT staff and I have updated and added many different functions to the site. Our website offers a variety of information, including online filing of Personal Property Returns, Farm Reports, and soon to come will be Business Personal Property Reports.
We offer GIS mapping that can be linked to property information. The website is updated weekly by our IT staff.
As for having a Facebook Page, I feel our website would provide more information that the community is looking for than what a Facebook page can provide. With technology you can get our website on your smartphone and or on a computer 24 hours a day. Also, with our website you can contact me or one of my staff directly instead of going through social media.
A list of departments is provided on the website and questions can be directed to the correct departments and will be answered the same business day. We also have current aerial information online.
The Ohio County Assessor’s Office has the latest technology and the staff to manage it!
Do you believe constituent services could be improved in the Assessor’s Office, and if so, how?
We strive to serve the taxpayers each and every day, and my staff and I are ready to answer any and all questions to the best of our ability, including myself. I am ready and willing to help anyone I can, and if I do not know the answer at the moment the inquiry is asked, then I will research and get back to the person as soon as possible with the correct information.
This is a public office, and my staff and I strive to serve the taxpayers. There is always room for improvement, and I, as the assessor, promise to be available to help as many people as possible.
How will you work to improve the working relationship between the Assessor’s Office and the Ohio County Clerk’s Office?
My office has a good working relationship with the County Clerk’s Office. When a deed is filed with the Clerk’s Office, we receive a copy of it along with the Sales Listing Form; this also includes mineral leases and sales. This is how we receive information on new ownership. Our two offices communicate on a daily basis and provide customer service to our community. My staff and I can research information by either searching the Clerk’s website or by going across the hall to the Clerk’s Office to research information.
Would you lobby state lawmakers to alter the property valuation process that is mandated by West Virginia Code? If so, what would you like to see changed? If not, why not?
West Virginia initiated the Public Valuation Training and Procedures Commission (PVC), which was created in 1990 by an act of the Legislature, West Virginia Code 11-1C-3. You may find this and other W.Va. codes very interesting concerning assessors, their duties and responsibilities.
I would be remiss if I did not explain the process of assessments. The Assessor is responsible for the appraisals of property, which must be 90 percent to 110 percent of true Market Value (We do not appraise Industrials, Minerals, Public Works that is the State of W.Va.). That market value is then taken times 60 percent which is the Assessed Value times the current levy rates equal your taxes. The Assessor certifies all values to the State, County, School Board and Municipalities (Wheeling, Bethlehem, etc.). These entities then decide how much money they need for their budgets and determine the Levy Rate.
I am active in the Legislative Committee of the Association of WV Assessors, and we lobby for the interests of the taxpayers. There are several items which I think that should be changed. The Homestead Exemption should be raised from $20,000 to at least $30,000 since the Market Value of property has increased in the last several years. Flood Insurance legislation had been brought up a few years ago and still needs to be addressed now since flood insurance has continued to increase.
I pride myself on the fact that my staff and I assess all property fairly and will do what I can for the taxpayers of Ohio County, and I ask for your vote on May 10 to continue the work that I have started.
(Photos provided by the candidate)