Property taxes are so high these days that they even give the tax collector high blood pressure.
In Alexandria, where the average assessment on residential property has risen by 13 percent in the past year, mild mannered real estate assessor David J. Chitlik has been accused of "wrecking the country." One angry citizen, unable to reach Chitlik, called his mother. Even Chitlik's wife, Roxy, questioned him about the 19 percent increase on their home's assessed valuation.
Is it any wonder, then, that Chitlik's blood presure has gone up during the past two weeks?
And is it any wonder that 3 of his 11 employes have been cautioned by the Alexandria Fire Department's paramedic squad to take it easy and consult a doctor?
Once a week for the past month, the paramedic team has been checking the blood pressure and pulse rate of Chitlik and his staff to determine if the avalanche of complaints from irate citizens taxes the assesor's health.
"I don't know that we really have established any kind of pattern yet," Chitlik said yesterday. In his case, however, his blood pressure has risen-from a low of 110 over 70 two weeks before the assessments were mailed, to a high of 130 over 80 this past Tuesday, several days after the complaints started to come in. Doctors advise persons whose blood pressure is 140 over 90 to use caution and consult a physician. Ironically, Chitlik's pulse rate went down in the past week.
"It's more a question of mood," Chitlik said of the stress he and his employes feed at this time of year. "Sometimes you feel cranky, you're tense. You have virtually no chance to relax."
Yet, despite the approximately 200 calls the office has been receiving each day this week, in addition to personal visits from citizens, some employes seem to take the pressure better than others. Cindy Smith appraises condominiums in Alexandria, and because of the lingering effects of the one-time "condo glut" the assessments on those units have tended to remain relatively stable in the past few years.
But in Smith's case there is another reason why her blood pressure has remained relatively stable this past month: male gallantry. "They (men) won't yell at me as much as they yell at a man," Smith said. "One man told me, 'I can't say those things to you, you're a nice young lady.' So I said 'say it anyway,' and he did and later apologized."
John Austin, whose father Francis was the Arlington County tax assessor for 25 years, is one of the three Alexandria employes whose blood pressure has climbed over 90 in the past few weeks. He has a history of high blood pressure, and it went from 156 over 84 a week ago to 150 over 92 last Tuesday.
Nevertheless, Austin, whose father died of a heart attack six months after he retired, says he loves his work and has been too busy to see a doctor.