For a variety of reasons, the Macon County Board of Commissioners decided to adopt a resolution to push back the revaluation process until 2015. The decision came after a special meeting in September where county tax administrator Richard Lightner explained the costs and benefits of prolonging the process two more years, from the scheduled 2013 to 2015. The board also decided to go back to the county’s traditional eight year revaluation cycle.
At their regularly held meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 11, commissioners heard from Lightner one more time before moving forward with their resolution.
“I’ll be honest with you, I’ve struggled with this,” stated Commissioner Kevin Corbin while addressing Richard Lightner last Tuesday night. “The thing that I’m hearing is that we just don’t have enough comps (home price comparisons) to go forward,” he said.
Lightner reiterated some of his previous points, explaining the county’s inadequate comp data.
Lightner stated that the county’s market sales would make a 2013 revaluation cumbersome, explaining that their comp sales “would not do justice to this county or the taxpayers, because we are so fortunate that over the years, we’ve been able to answer the board’s questions, but we’ve also been able to sit down with that taxpayer and explain it to them. That’s why we don’t get many appeals to the state,” explained Lightner. “But now they will probably be just as confused as they were when they came in the door, because we simply don’t have the market data.”
Regardless of whether or not the property market recovers to pre-recession levels, the county will have two more years of market data to analyze in their 2015 revaluation, meaning they will likely have sufficient comps to fairly assess property values once again.
Before commissioners adopted the resolution, two citizens spoke out against delaying the process. Citizen Vic Drummond argued that 49 North Carolina counties have went ahead and reappraised their respective property markets in the past three years. “I believe it is time to fix the problem for 2013,” Drummond said.
“This is a matter of fairness. No tax payer should be overpaying or underpaying their property taxes. At your work session, there were concerns that if revaluations went into effect in 2013, some who are currently suffering the most in this economic downturn could see their property tax bills increase. I can see that problem, but I don’t recall a concern when three of you voted to increase property taxes six percent in 2010,” criticized Drummond.
Commissioner Ronnie Beale promptly issued a rebuttal, stating that all 49 counties who conducted revaluations in the past three years had no choice, because their eight-year time table had expired. State law mandates local governments to reappraise property values every eight years. Moreover, to keep a revenue neutral budget and the delivery of county services unscathed, the county must receive approximately $26 million from property tax revenues.
Macon County did increase taxes in 2010, going from .264 per $100, to .279 per $100, with the additional revenue going towards funding a new school. The county’s property tax rate is still the lowest in the state.
Chairman Brian McClellan pointed out that the county had cut its budget by about 15 percent since the 2007-2008 recession, and did so to comply with state law. The county must budget according to its revenue intake. Commissioner Corbin added some raw numbers, telling people in attendance that the county has cut its budget from about $49 million to $42 million since the recession’s onslaught. Most importantly, to at least several commissioners, would be the distribution of the tax structure in the scenario of a 2013 revaluation. Since home prices for the average family have not decreased as much relative to higher priced homes, their tax rates would see an increase with a 2013 revaluation. This fact may not change in 2015, but commissioners are hopeful it will. Macon County’s property tax rate is $.279 per $100 of valuation, the lowest of all 100 North Carolina counties.