A new study by the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics shows property taxes in West Virginia are among the lowest in the country and state property tax rates have been declining.

West Virginia ranks among the bottom 10 in the U.S. for property taxes per capita while all rates (including state, county, school and municipal taxes) in the state have fallen by 17 percent since 1990, according to the Bureau of Business and Economic Research study.

Property tax has been the most scrutinized and misunderstood tax in the United States, and West Virginia is not an exception,said Amy Higginbotham , BBER economist and study co-author.Since its conception in 1863, the West Virginia property tax has been criticized, misunderstood and modified but still remains the major source of revenue for counties, municipalities and boards of education.

The report also shows that while tax rates have been on the decline, property tax bills have increased because of higher assessed property values.

Assessed valuations of residential property have had an average annual growth rate of 10.5 percent since 1990,Higginbotham said.

The study gives insight into how property tax has evolved during West Virginias history and shows the current structure of the tax including rates, assessed valuations and revenue disbursements.

The report also highlights trends of West Virginia property taxes, addresses policies in neighboring states, shows who ultimately pays property taxes and gives options for legislative changes to property tax in the state.

While unpopular, property taxes affect residential location decisions, property values and migration patterns,said Tami Gurley-Calvez , BBER research assistant professor and the studys co-author.The West Virginia system of categorizing and assessing property is unique compared to the tax systems of neighboring states.

This property tax publication can be accessed free of charge at the BBER Web site ( www.bber.wvu.edu ).