Commissioners weigh options, but haven’t made any decisions
It’s still unclear if Union County will have a property tax revaluation in 2012. Facing a staff requested deadline of March 1, commissioners said they hadn’t made a decision about giving a final approval to the reval.
“I don’t know the answer to that yet,” commissioner Todd Johnson said. “I’ve heard concerns on both sides, emails saying please do it and people coming up and asking me not to.”
Under North Carolina law, counties have to conduct a revaluation at least every eight years. As Union County’s last one was in 2008, another one isn’t required until 2016. The previous county board moved that timeline up to 2012, hoping to help lower the property tax bills for some residents, whose homes were last evaluated in 2008, at the height of the real estate market.
The reason for that increased tax bill is a decline in real estate sales. Over the last three years, Union County tax records show sales have dropped from 3,388 in 2008 to 1,515 homes sold in 2010. The high end housing market has suffered the most. Out of those homes sold in 2010, only 93 were defined as excellent or above. Over 1000 were classified as ‘average’ or ‘fair’ by the tax office. If home sales keep dropping, the real estate tax base will drop 14 percent by 2012, meaning the funds brought in by property taxes would be lower at the current rate.
The potential problem comes from the fact that in order to maintain a balanced budget, factoring in the 14 percent decline, county tax administrator John Petrosky estimates the tax rate would have to rise by eight cents.
“I’m going on the assumption that (the reval) is still on,” commissioner Jonathan Thomas said. “I’m still collecting information. The previous board made their decision based on the data they had available. We have some more information, based on the last year’s data and we’ll make the best decision we can for the county.”
Union isn’t the only county facing questions about what to do with lower-than-expected home sales. Across North Carolina, 12 counties have postponed their revaluations from 2011, due to an insufficient number of sales. According to state tax records, Union County ranks among the top ten counties most out of synch with property values in the current economy.
“We’re (more out of synch) today than the last time we did it (in 2008),” commissioner Tracy Kuehler said. “It makes no sense not to do a revaluation.”
Kuehler argued that commissioners shouldn’t focus on who would or would not be affected by the revaluation, saying it shouldn’t be an east vs. west issue.
“The fact that parts of the county are affected is all we need to know,” Kuehler said.
Towns will look to express their opinion on the issue in coming weeks. Weddington’s town council will discuss a possible resolution either in support or opposing the revaluation at their Monday, Feb. 14 meeting.
One potential problem that county officials may have to deal with is how to determine the market value in neighborhoods where there have been few or no recent sales. In such a case, Petrosky said, the tax office would have to go to the closest subdivision in size, where there are sales.
“It’s a rough situation, look what Charlotte’s going through with their revaluation,” Johnson said. “We’re going to talk to property owners, both private and commercial. Ultimately, we can’t make everyone happy.”