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Upshur County Assessor Dustin Zickefoose

Can’t make it to the assessor’s office? On Saturdays in August, the Upshur County Assessor’s Office is coming to you!

BUCKHANNON – In 1789, Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letter, “but in this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.”

That being said, in Upshur County, Assessor Dustin Zickefoose, his deputies and his assessors are working hard to make filing the paperwork for paying those taxes and doing online research of items listed in their office as easy as possible – even going so far as to set up satellite locations in mid-August to help those in the outlying areas of Upshur County.

Zickefoose sat down with My Buckhannon Thursday evening to pass along some of the new things going on and upcoming events with the Upshur County Assessor’s Office. He said filing for personal property taxes as well as farm-use applications have moved online.

“This is the third year we have offered online filing of personal property taxes online,” Zickefoose said. “The first year, about 800 residents took advantage of this and last year, we had nearly 1,200 who used it to file their taxes. We are pushing that pretty had as a convenience for Upshur Countians.”

Zickefoose said filing online is much easier and convenient because folks do not need to come in during business hours and try to find a place to park.

“People can sit in their own homes at their own computers and file online where they are comfortable,” he said. “People can also pay their taxes online.”

One of the new online features, just available this year, is the online filing of forms. He said the farm-use form has made its online debut this season.

“I think more people are using the computer to do this kind of thing, and if folks want to do this online and need help, folks in my office are available to help,” Zickefoose said. “Farmers are out all day working, and they don’t want to have to quit and come here to file forms or taxes. They want to do that stuff in the evening.”

Zickefoose did add that the traffic through his office increases in the summer when there are very rainy days.

“We do seem to have an influx of farmers through our office on rainy days,” he said. “But what this is about is convenience. That is why we are offering those forms online.”

Each year, people complete an assessment, and this year on or about July 15, folks will receive their personal property tax bill. That assessment is what you pay taxes on for the items owned July 1 of the previous year including property, motor vehicles, motorcycles, boats and of course, dogs.

“This assessment is available online and can be completed online – saving residents from coming into the office to complete,” Zickefoose said. “When you bring up your name, it will have what you reported the following year. It will have your vehicles on there – let’s say you had a Toyota Rave 4 last year, but you traded it in for a Ford Escape. You can remove the Toyota, add the Ford, finalize the assessment and you are done. It’s that easy.”

The Public GIS is available online at the website www.upshurcounty.org. Zickefoose said the Public GIS is the Upshur County mapping of property. It’s just another resource that is available online and at your fingertips.

“It contains any of the forms we offer, and has meeting dates, past agendas and minutes,” he said. “Each county office has their own tab. If you go to our tab, it has things like the Public GIS, a place to pay taxes and many other items. The county is working to get an application that will go straight on people’s phone. That is in the works – it will be great.

“We also have new aerial [photographs] completed in April of this year,” Zickefoose said. “We had a company fly our aerial photography, and we are hoping to have that available to our residents by mid-July. We want to have that available when the bills start hitting everyone’s mailboxes on July 15 because that is when our office starts getting very busy.”

He said lawyers, appraisers, real estate and pipeline companies use the Public GIS the most, but added it is fun to get online and look at it.

“We also have our map cards available online,” Zickefoose said. “We received a grant in 2018, and we used the funds to scan all of our map cards and put those online. That cuts down a lot of foot travel in our office and saves wear and tear on our map cards by having it online. We want people to know we are still here for them when they want to come in and view those; however, most people prefer to sit in their homes or at their office and do the research online.”

He said the Upshur County Assessor’s Office received another grant in 2019, which will allow them to scan some old railroad maps as well as coal maps.

“These grants are for records preservation and come from the state Records Preservation,” he explained.

One of the things Zickefoose said his office will be doing new this year is going out into the communities to offer some of their services on a Saturday. He said in mid-August, they will go to satellite locations to allow taxpayers to file farm applications, personal property returns and purchase dog tags.

“In mid-August, probably the 17th, we will be going and opening up our services at the Banks District VFD, the Washington District VFD and the Hodgesville Community Building. A few of my deputies and I will be going out on a Saturday morning and opening up our services for those who may not want to come to town. Rock Cave has a grocery store, pharmacy, a bank, a hardware store and a few diners. Those people don’t have to come to town in Buckhannon if they don’t want to. So, we are trying to help them out, too.”

“If this takes off, we are looking to add a few more locations,” he continued, “but we are trying to ease into this. We believe we will see a lot of productivity by doing this, and again, we are open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. People work, and it is hard for them to come to us. If we can go to them on a Saturday morning, it will be minimal cost to the county, and I think it will be a good thing.”

He said his office is looking to possible do a mailer to folks in those locations who haven’t filed by then to let them know about the satellite location and to remind them to complete the paperwork.

“If people cannot get to us, we will let them know we are coming out closer to help them,” he said.

Zickefoose said people are always asking him if he is going to run again for assessor in 2020.

“I tell them yes, I will be running again in 2020,” he said with a chuckle. “It takes four years to learn the job so yes, I am going to run again.”

This is his first term and he was elected in 2016.

“I started Jan. 1 of 2017, so this is my third year.”

He said he decided to run for the position because before taking over as assessor, he was a certified appraiser in the county and thought he had a leg up on things.

“But I didn’t know everything,” he said with a smile. “I was approached to apply, and I did it and here I am.”

“Everyone in this office does a phenomenal job,” Zickefoose added. “There are a lot of moving parts of this office, but it works well. I also appreciate that I can reach out to assessors from other counties for support. It is a great group. We are on a first name basis with the assessors from our neighboring counties and that helps.”

In May 2019, Zickefoose was elected as third vice president of the Association of West Virginia Assessors at their annual meeting.

“I was nominated and elected to the Board, and it is a chain, so next year, I will be second vice president and so on,” Zickefoose said. “The meeting focuses on issues coming up in the West Virginia Legislature – any bills we are interested in. We discuss issues – one of the big ones that came up was with the classifications of property. We talk about technology … one county talked about how they purchased their own drone for mapping. It also enables us to bounce questions off of one another. Another hot topic is farm use; we have 580 farmers in Upshur County, so it a big issue. We have folks who have beehives, clear up to those with 100 acres of potatoes, and everything in between.”

The Upshur County Office of the Assessor is in the Upshur County Courthouse Annex at 38 West Main Street, Suite 102, in Buckhannon. They are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Additional information is available by calling 304-472-4650 or visiting their website.

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