Brace yourself, Mecklenburg property owners. The value of your home has probably shot up in recent years, and the county tax collector is about to catch on to just how much.
County appraisers will be going neighborhood by neighborhood throughout 2018, determining what each of the 375,000 residential and commercial properties is worth. The new tax values they assign will take effect Jan. 1, 2019.
It’s the first revaluation in eight years, and residents who were here then remember what a disaster that one was. The county’s process was flawed and its communication was miserable. Overcharged property owners seethed and ended up getting some $100 million back in refunds after contesting their bills.
The county has brought in a new assessor since then, and Ken Joyner vows to get it right this time.
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“We are taking the steps to ensure 2011 never happens again here in Mecklenburg County,” Joyner told the editorial board. “We are making it an emphasis to provide the best service possible to our citizens.”
Joyner expects the typical property to jump 30 percent or so in value, given what’s happened to real estate prices in Mecklenburg in the past eight years. That may prompt you to want to grab hold of your wallet, but a big jump in value alone will not raise your taxes.
Two other factors will decide what happens with your tax bill: the tax rate elected officials set and how much your property value goes up – not overall, but compared with others.
County Manager Dena Diorio will announce what the “revenue-neutral” tax rate would be, meaning it would bring in the same amount of revenue after the revaluation as before it. Commissioners can adopt that rate or go higher or lower.
Property tax revaluations are done not to raise taxes but to make sure the tax burden is distributed fairly. If your property has gone up a lot more than others since 2011, you’ve been getting a break and should pay more. If yours has dropped or risen more slowly than others, you’ve been paying too much and should pay less.
Commissioners shouldn’t use the revaluation to try to sneak through a tax hike. Start at a revenue-neutral rate, then like any other year, assess the county’s needs and expected revenues and determine what the tax rate should be.
Joyner was on the faculty at the UNC School of Government before he took the assessor job. He starts the revaluation knowing that many residents are skeptical after the 2011 debacle.
He said the county has stepped up its training and will use a different system this time, one that is standard around much of the state and country. As a start, his assessors have already visited 250,000 properties – about two-thirds – since March 2014 to assess them from the outside.
“We are trying to ensure citizens are heard in the process,” Joyner told us. “No one knows a home better than the homeowner themselves.”