PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Big changes are being made to Portsmouth’s real estate assessments as the interim city assessor says she continues to find issues with how assessments were done under the former city assessor.

Interim Assessor Janey Culpepper said at Tuesday’s council informal session that as of April 7, 1,000 parcels of land in 55 different neighborhoods have been adjusted for the fiscal year 2023-24 assessments, with $182.79 million (1.83%) in reduced assessment value so far.

Culpepper says she and her office could “easily” reduce assessments by another 1.83%.

“We are steadily making the adjustments as needed … I have a shortage of staff, which is another problem,” said Culpepper, who came back from retirement in March after the firing of former City Assessor Patrick Dorris. Dorris had told council just two weeks prior that assessments were up as much as 40% for some properties citywide.

Culpepper says she was particularly concerned over the blanket increases in land values in the assessments proposed back in February. She says most of the residents who’ve come by her office for a review have an issue with land values.

She said Tuesday that the two appraisers who did all of the residential properties and one commercial appraiser were instructed by someone to add an additional percentage in land value to properties citywide, and take off previous depreciations.

“On land that was $10,000-$50,000, to add 25%; $50,000-$100,000, 20%; $100,000-$150,000, 15%; $150,000-$200,000, 10%; $200,000-$250,000, 5%; $250,00 to $300,000, 2.5%; waterfront and [$300,000], 1%,” Culpepper said.

“We have land that’s gone up over 200%, and we can’t have that … not to mention [state code] that’s not fair and equitable to our citizens,” Culpepper said.

When asked, Culpepper said she didn’t know who gave that directive, and wasn’t there to place blame.

Culpepper said at the same time there have been some assessments that have gone up.

“There were changes, improvements to the property that had not been picked up: swimming pools, decks, different things like that … now why this wasn’t done I don’t know,” Culpepper said. “… when these things are not done, the citizens end up paying the price for it.”

Going forward in the near future, Culpepper says she’s working on adjustments on an individual neighborhood basis.

“A lot of the neighborhoods are in the process of being changed … we’re having a fairly large meeting [Wednesday] to address the neighborhoods that we can address at this point in time … I have hundreds that came in Friday, I have hundreds that came in today … we’re reviewing as quickly as we can.”

Meanwhile, city council is simultaneously looking at a real estate tax rate decrease for citizens, down as low as $1.25 per $100 in assessed value from the current rate of $1.30 per $100.

You can watch the presentations on the assessments and tax rate in the first part of Tuesday’s council video. You can also read Culpepper’s presentation slides here.