If tax values to some Mecklenburg County properties are changed because of inequities found in a review of the 2011 revaluation, most homeowners shouldn’t expect a change in their tax bills right away.
That’s because current state law requires that any reduction or increase to tax bills must begin the year the new appraisal goes into effect.
The earliest that could happen for some properties may be 2013, said Cary Saul, director of the county’s Land Use and Environmental Services Agency. Saul said he based that timetable on his understanding of the state law.
The only exceptions, Saul said, would come if a property owner still has an appeal pending from 2011 or 2012. In those cases, any final changes in value and tax bills would be retroactive.
The possibility of any changes in values surfaced this week when Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners Chair Harold Cogdell said broad findings of an outside firm hired to review the 2011 revaluation could include possible “inequities” that may call for correcting tax values for some properties.
Cogdell stressed that the review is still preliminary. Pearson’s Appraisal Service isn’t expected to make any of its recommendations final until later this month.
On Thursday, an appraiser with the Wilson-based firm declined to unveil any findings. Witt Putney said more information will be released on Nov. 13. “That’s only two weeks away,” he said.
Pearson’s appraisers update board
Putney joined two other Pearson’s representatives on Thursday to update a citizen’s advisory board about the revaluation review.
Commissioners hired the firm in July after county leaders were slammed with criticisms over the accuracy and legality of the last revaluation. Mecklenburg officials have acknowledged the county erred in some of its communications with taxpayers about the new values, but some have stressed overall confidence in the revaluation.
Part of Pearson’s work included reviewing about 200 neighborhoods across the county, the bulk of which were randomly selected, to look at how equitable values were assessed to properties. The remaining 50 were larger neighborhoods that saw the biggest increases in land values.
In addition, Pearson’s selected at random about 375 individual properties to check the accuracy of county records on the property. The property details are part of what is used to help set the tax values.
The areas studied by Pearson’s represent only about 15 percent of the total neighborhoods in Mecklenburg, but is the amount the firm said it would review in its proposal to the county.
Any further work to other areas likely would require commissioners or county staff to take more action.
Some tax-value adjustments?
The revaluation review was cheered by some residents as a sign that the county would get rid of the 2011 property values.
Mecklenburg officials stressed repeatedly that any outside review of the revaluation would not lead to a “redo” of the entire 2011 appraisal.
But they left open the possibility that Pearson’s review could result in some adjustments of property values if problems were identified. In addition, the county has been revising values during its normal appeals process over the past 18 months.
The prospect of not getting any immediate relief on tax bills didn’t sit well with some property owners, including Bob Deaton of Cornelius. Deaton appealed the value of his home after it went up 64 percent in the revaluation.
Deaton called the revaluation “flawed,” and said he wants a complete redo of all values with any changes retroactive to past tax bills. He said that could require some intervention by state lawmakers.
Without another revaluation soon, Deaton said the county has “got money from property owners that they don’t deserve because the process was flawed for 2011.”
Cogdell told the Observer this week he had heard from county staff that Pearson’s other broad findings could include improvements to communications and customer service and changes to the appeals process.
Cogdell said he’d talked about the issue with county staff.
But Cogdell drew criticism Thursday for disclosing the information before Pearson’s in-depth findings were presented to all commissioners.
Thursday morning, county General Manager John McGillicuddy wrote in an e-mail to commissioners that the “key themes” he detailed to Cogdell about Pearson’s work were “suppositions” and that the information was “highly preliminary.”
In response, Cogdell stated: “If you didn’t know what you were talking about, you shouldn’t have said anything. ...You may not have wanted this information public at this time, but it is what you told me. At no point in time did I state what the findings will be, because I have no idea what the final report will contain.”
Cogdell declined to comment further on Thursday.
County Manager Harry Jones is expected to make recommendations to commissioners on Nov. 20 on how to handle future revaluations. On Thursday, he urged commissioners to let Pearson’s complete its work.
“We have provided you a clear process that will provide the board and public ample opportunity for transparency and conversation about the report’s findings and recommendations,” Jones wrote. “I encourage you to allow the process to work.”