West Virginians pay some of the lowest home-owner property taxes in the country. Figures compiled by the Tax Foundation show that median property taxes in nearly every county are below $1,000 a year and, in some cases, they are a fraction of what homeowners in many other states pay.
Earlier this month, the Tax Foundation released its compilation of property taxes for fiscal year 2016 and here’s what they show for 52 of the state’s 55 counties: *
The median homeowner property tax paid by West Virginians in 2016 was $521. That’s well below the national median of $2,279. But then again, housing is a lot cheaper in West Virginia. The real estate website Zillow lists the median value of a home in West Virginia at $96,300, while the national median is $227,000.
All but two of the 52 counties listed in West Virginia had homeowner property tax bills below $1,000 in 2016. The median in Jefferson County was the highest at $1,411, while Berkeley’s was next at $1,159. Still, those are well below the highest in the nation.
The Foundation reports, “The five counties with the highest median property tax payments all have bills exceeding $10,000—Bergen and Essex Counties in New Jersey, and Nassau, Rockland, and Westchester Counties in New York. All five of those counties are located near New York City.
Jefferson and Berkeley Counties have become bedroom communities for individuals who work in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. West Virginia gives them a lower cost of living, while the metropolitan area provides them with better job opportunities and higher pay.
Loudoun County, Virginia is just over the mountain east from Jefferson County, but once you cross the state line, the property taxes shoot up. The Tax Foundation report shows the median property tax in Loudoun is $5,219. The story is similar just north of the eastern panhandle in Montgomery County, Maryland where the annual tax tab is $4,364, and $3,601 in Fredrick County.
The lowest property taxes in West Virginia are found in three counties–$231 in McDowell, $267 in Webster, and $273 in Wyoming. Six counties are at $400 or below: Lincoln at $400, Pocahontas at $377, Wirt at $373, Summers at $359, Calhoun at $341 and Clay at $322.
Those annual property tax bills are among the lowest in the country. According to the Tax Foundation, the lowest tax bills in all 50 states can be found in 13 counties with median property taxes of less than $200 a year. Those counties are found in Alaska, Louisiana, Alabama, New Mexico and Texas.
Nationally, property taxes are integral to financing local and state government. In West Virginia, the primary beneficiaries of the property tax are county school systems.
As a poor state with low property values, it is reasonable that West Virginians should not have to have to pay very high taxes on their homes, so the cost of living is cheaper here than almost every other state. But that also means less money for public education and local governments.
*(The figures were not available for Ohio, Brooke and Hancock Counties.)