Councils draft a letter, asking commissioners to reconsider
Town councils from Weddington and Marvin don’t want to wait four years to re-examine the county’s property tax values. During their Feb. 13 and Feb. 14 meetings, both groups voted unanimously to send county commissioners a resolution, requesting a revaluation in 2012.
“It’s really not fair to the people in the west, specifically Marvin, who are paying a higher rate of taxes as our house values have gone down, our tax values have not gone down proportionately.” Marvin councilman Ron Salimao said, “From the village standpoint, it will be a challenge to make it work, but from the individual perspective, I think we owe it to our citizens force this issue as much as we can.”
The Marvin resolution cited the high volatility and severe depression of property values in recent years; it also focused attention to the abrogation of the county policy of conducting a property re-evaluation every four years, which had been in effect since 2000. Union County had conducted property revaluations in 2000, 2004 and 2008.
The Weddington letter focused on property values, pointing out that residents are paying taxes based on market values from four years ago.
“There seems to be some concern about high taxes in Weddington,” Weddington mayor Walker Davidson said. “I believe the market prices are not reflective (of the values).”
A county has to do a revaluation either every eight years or when its values are 15 percent or more out of balance with home sales. There are several loopholes to that law, NC General Statute 105-286. First, the law only applies to counties with populations of 75,000 or more. Counties like Union that do meet the population trigger are also exempt from the 15 percent requirement within the three years before or after a revaluation has taken place. For Union County, which held its last revaluation in 2008, that means 2012 is the last year the state could step in and force a change before 2016.
Since 2008, home sales have declined by 70 percent in Union County, with many sales taking place in neighborhoods with foreclosures. Union County uses a sales ratio to determine fair market property values, calculated by dividing the property assessment by the sales price. Although assessment equations do not include foreclosure sales, officials say there is no doubt sales figures in recent years were affected by homes sold at bargain-basement prices.
County commissioners voted to cancel the scheduled 2012 revaluation in March 2011.
“If you been taxed unfairly in the first place, you have to wait eight-years before it is addressed.” Marvin council member Lanny Openshaw said, “So a four year cycle makes a lot more sense. A reval is just a snapshot in time.”
Openshaw noted that most times government does not like to do revaluations, it is politically awkward, elected officials don’t like to deal with the ramifications of adjusting tax rates to balance the revenue needs.
“I think it’s honorable for Marvin to put forth a resolution like this as it will reduce the amount of money that the town will take in.” Openshaw said, “By supporting a reval, we are essentially limiting the size of government.”
According to the North Carolina Department of Revenue, the sales assessment ratio from Jan. 1 of last year shows Union County home sales at 111.16 percent of the market rate. The statute goal is 100 percent, so to trigger a revaluation, the county must be either lower than 85 or higher than 115 percent.
Department of Revenue officials say that even though the final numbers for 2012 won’t be released until possibly the second quarter, they don’t expect Union to meet the 115 percent trigger this year.