County wins tax appeal
A court appeal on how property was revalued in Haywood County in 2011 has been settled in the county’s favor, but Canton resident and county commissioner candidate Denny King said he will still pursue the issue by refiling his appeal.
King said the initial ruling of the Property Tax Commission determined the county tax supervisor used an arbitrary method of valuing his Beaverdam home and 3.1 acres. He contended the county’s assigned value substantially exceeded the true market value of the property.
“I don’t believe the county evidence supports the county assessed value,” King said in an email last week. “Neighborhood market factors were applied to each neighborhood. The neighborhood market factor for my neighborhood is 130 percent. The reason I appealed was due to the neighborhood delineation market factor that increased my house value 30 percent.”
County Tax Administrator David Francis said appraisals capture what has happened in the past, not what is predicted to happen in the future.
Following the 2011 reappraisal, King’s property went from $165,232 to $210,900. When he pleaded his case before the local board of equalization and review, the value was dropped to $205,100 based on information presented during the hearing.
King was dissatisfied with the decision and appealed to the state Property Tax Commission. A June 2013 decision lowered the value to $172,200, an amount about halfway between what the county established and what the Kings requested.
The county appealed the decision to the N.C. Court of Appeals, said Francis, because some tax commission members voting on the case weren't present during the full hearing, and because of extensive misinformation being circulated about the reappraisal process that needed to be put to rest.
The appellate court decision handed down last week found the state Property Tax Commission rationale for lowering the value of King's property was inadequate and remanded the case back to the commission.
That means for the tax appeal to continue, King will need to ask the state commission to reconsider his case, something he said he is pursuing.
The county spent $4,900 on an attorney and transcript fees on the King appeal, said Francis, noting state law requires the county to hire an attorney to appear on its behalf before the Property Tax Commission. Travel costs to Raleigh for county staff members added another $300 or so to the bill, he said.
When the county appealed its loss to the Court of Appeals, only briefs were reviewed, so there was no need to pay attorney Charles Meeker for that, but several superfluous motions filed by King added to the county cost, which brought the legal cost total up to just shy of $5,000, he added.
County Commission Chairman Mark Swanger said he agreed with the court of appeals decision, and appreciated the unanimous decision as it indicated a degree of certainty on the part of the court.
A year ago when the county decided to appeal the state Property Tax Commission ruling, the Haywood County Republican Party presented a resolution to the county commissioners asking the board to reverse its decision to appeal and hire a professional appraisal firm to review the appraisals.
The board declined, stating at the time that the 2011 revaluation process had been one of the least contested revaluations they could remember. They said only 3 percent of the property owners in the county appealed the values established through the mass appraisal process, a number exceedingly low compared to past revaluation years.
Swanger said hiring an outside firm as requested by the GOP resolution would cost the county an estimated $1 million.
At the time Commissioner Kevin Ensley noted that state information showed the county’s reappraisal was accurate, and said that since 2011, three of four properties in King’s neighborhood have sold for more than their tax value.
King is in for the long haul.
"The case is not closed," he wrote. "I believe the NC Property Tax Commission will once again rule in my favor."
King, who didn't hire an attorney for the first case before the Property Tax Commission, will have support in pursuing his quest.
"Since the reval, lower-end housing continues to sell well below the assessed value, and higher-end homes well above the tax value," he said in an email. "Overall the sales to assessed ratio may be spot on, but it's way off at the bottom and top end."
"What do you think is the real reason the Haywood County Commissioners have decided they must not allow you to win your appeal, no matter what it will cost?" asked local activist Jonie Cure. "It is unlikely we will ever know the true amount they have spent and will continue to spend to fight your $172 dollar per year increase in real property taxes due to their arbitrary determination of the value of your property."
Francis said the wording of the appellate court ruling was very clear and indicated the county did the right think in appealing the case.
"There was no middle ground in their findings," he said of the judicial ruling. "It was a rock solid opinion."
For some to say the county is fighting the case simply because King is a political figure is 'laughable,'" Francis said.
"If Mr. King had lost and filed an appeal because the hearing started out with one set of judges and ended up with another set, I'd completely understand," he said. "He is running for county commissioner and all he has to run on is this appeal."
Swanger said the issue simply boils down to fairness.
"We all operate under the same rules and are all under the same obligations," he said. "That's how the system works. The whole system will fail if you treat people differently based on who they are."