Property tax critics, GOP want actionBoard: Request will cost $1 million, raise taxes
A group of 13 stood up at the Monday Haywood County Board of Commissioners meeting as Pat Carr read a resolution passed by the county’s Republican Party executive committee regarding the county’s 2011 reappraisal.
The resolution addressed Senate Bill 159, which was passed to allow Mecklenburg and other counties to either reimburse or collect additional taxes on properties where the reappraisal value was inaccurate.
The GOP resolution cited a concerned constituent study indicating significant issues in some areas of the county where assessed values were “considerably higher than the sales price.”
Canton residents Denny and Debbie King contested the value of their property before the N.C. Property Tax commission, and had their value reduced. The commissioners are appealing the decision, which is currently before the N.C. Court of Appeals.
The resolution asked the county to reverse their decision to appeal, to use the funds allocated for the appeal to hire a professional appraisal firm to review the neighborhood rates, make adjustments to the properties erroneously evaluated, do a revaluation in 2015 and cease using neighborhoods as basis for future appraisals.
Others in the group spoke, including King, who requested the 30 percent market adjustment factor in his neighborhood be dropped and that the county drop the tax commission appeal, and Jonnie Cure, who chastised the tax appeal process.
Eddie Cabe, who’s home was initially valued at $125,000 during the 2011 reappraisal process but who now pays less than $300 in taxes on a reduced property rate of $41,200, told the commissioners to stop using his case as an example of how the system works.
“You used tax money to fight against me,” he said.
Later, County Tax Administrator David Francis explained Cabe’s case as one where information provided by the taxpayer during the informal appeal process, and later at the board of equalization and review level, worked to bring the property value in line with its market value — the goal of a reappraisal.
Additionally, upon hearing more about Cabe’s circumstances, county staff learned he qualified for a property tax relief program. In all, the processes set forth in law and used by the county allowed Cabe’s bill to be reduced by more than half.
Kenneth Henson told the board he didn’t appreciate the county spending taxpayer funds to hire an attorney to work against its own citizens, which happened when a Raleigh attorney represented the county against the Kings in their tax appeal case.
“This is crazy spending this kind of money against private citizens of this county, and that’s what’s happening in this situation,” Henson said, a statement that was greeted by applause of some audience members.
Francis later said if a case goes to the state property tax commission, the county, by law, is required to hire an attorney.
The county appealed the King case, he explained, because some tax commission members voting on the case weren't present during the full hearing, and because of the extensive misinformation being circulated about the reappraisal process that needed to be put to rest.
At what cost?
County Commission Chairman Mark Swanger said he was astounded by the request from the Republican party executive committee that would result in a tax increase to cover the estimated $1 million for an outside firm to conduct a reappraisal. He said he was also bothered by the suggestion that “we should meddle with a matter before the court of appeals.”
Republican Commissioner Kevin Ensley questioned the resolution from his party, noting it was passed at the very same meeting where it was presented, despite calls two members asking for more time to study the issue.
Ensley said state information shows the county’s reappraisal was accurate, and noted that since 2011, three of four properties in Mr. King’s neighborhood have sold for more than their tax value.
Some information requested in the resolution is already available on the county website, he said, and the neighborhood delineation method resulted in far fewer questions during the process than have surfaced in the past.
Ensley’s biggest concern was the request for another revaluation in 2015, which would cost $1 million if done by an outside firm.
“That would require a tax increase, and this conservative commissioner will not vote for that,” he said.
He suggested that, in the future, the Republican Party not pass a resolution until they had time to fully study it.
Not all those at the meeting were there to chastise the county leaders.
Marie Metcalf thanked the board on behalf of the county’s senior leadership teams.
“We often request time to ask for something,” she said. “Tonight we’re here to say a big thank you for you support for issues facing seniors in Haywood County.”
Metcalf said in 2012, volunteers with the program provided 13,222 hours of service to the elderly, a contribution with a monetary value of $264,640. This year the program is on track to provide even more volunteer hours than last year.
More than a dozen senior volunteers were present as Metcalf thanked the board.
Janie Benson, head of the Haywood County Democratic party, also thanked the commissioners for all they do for the county.
“I know many of our surrounding counties are having real difficulties with financial matters,” she said. “My understanding is that Haywood County has ridden out these hard times in a way many of our other counties have not.”
Benson also thanked county employees who have had to endure some “interesting things,” such as been followed when they were off-duty, timed as they spoke on the telephone and asked to perform extensive “fact-gathering” for certain individuals.
She asked the board to compile an accounting of employee’ time put into fact-gathering for certain individuals that serve limited interests.