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Learn about property taxes

Property values are anticipated to rise in Ballantyne during the county's 2011 property revaluation, according to Warren Cooksey, District 7 City Council representative.

Revaluation is required by state law every eight years. The county tax assessors have completed property evaluations and will send them to property owners by mail at the end of January.

"The dilemma with this process is that there are two steps to it," said Cooksey. "We first have to evaluate the tax value and make sure they are as close to market value as possible. Then the tax rate is determined and the tax rate subject is set.

"You can't always look at your tax value and assume what your tax obligation will be until the rate is set."

The rate, which is applied to the property value and determines the amount property owners will pay in taxes, will not be set until June.

According to Cooksey, the rate most likely to be applied is the revenue-neutral rate, which allows local government to select a rate that would bring in the same amount of revenue as they would have without a revaluation.

"If property in Ballantyne has appreciated more than other property in the city, then the revenue-neutral rate would have a higher burden on Ballantyne than the city as a whole," said Cooksey. "Preliminary indications from tax assessors are that property has appreciated more in the Ballantyne area than the overall city average."

Cooksey stressed that although property values might go up, he is uncertain taxes will.

"I don't know at all if taxes here will go up, because the rate hasn't been set yet," he said. "It is possible to set a rate that might not affect (property owners) so much. The likelihood that a rate lower than the revenue-neutral rate will be adopted is slim but still a possibility."

Despite a possible tax increase, Cooksey still has high hopes for Ballantyne neighborhoods.

"In 1998, neighborhoods like Myers Park, Dilworth and Elizabeth saw an incredible tax increase, in some areas as much as 200 percent," he said. "But they survived. They are still around and are some of the strongest neighborhoods in Mecklenburg County."

Still, residential property in Ballantyne may see more of an impact than commercial real estate.

"It is possible that residential property will make up a higher percentage of the county's land value with the 2011 revaluation than it did with the 2003" revaluation, he said. "If so, even a revenue-neutral rate will have a higher impact on homeowners."

According to Cooksey, there are some neighborhoods in Ballantyne that have had a 120 percent to 130 percent property-value increase since 2003, due to the growth of the area. These neighborhoods will see a higher tax value.

At the end of January, 315,000 property owners in Mecklenburg County will receive notice of their property tax values in the mail.

Of those, Cooksey said, county tax assessors predict 40,000 owners will file an informal review request to repeal the assessed value.

"If you bought a house or had it appraised in 2010 and find a substantial difference in the values, you are encouraged to repeal," he said.

While Cooksey acknowledges that property is an investment and owners like to see value increase, the economy will make property owners reluctant to pay higher taxes.

"It's a lot like paying your income taxes," said Cooksey. "When you get a raise, you have to pay more taxes, but you can afford it because you are making more money. When your property taxes are increased but your income is not, it creates a problem. You either have to somehow increase your income or decrease your spending."

Brian Roller, developer and property manager for the Broma Property Management, said he is concerned higher taxes will have a negative impact on small businesses in the area.

"It's a trickle-down effect," said Roller. "Taxes are absorbed by the small-business owners. They will need to make up the difference, and the cost to the consumer will go up to do so."

Although Roller said he believes small businesses in Ballantyne are doing well, he understands the poor economy has had a negative impact and worries higher taxes will makes things harder.

"Right now, small business is doing well, but it's not easy by any means," he said. "If taxes go up, it won't be doomsday with people closing their doors, but it will be more of a struggle."

Cooksey said he worries small businesses and homeowners will move into South Carolina if property values and taxes increase too much.

"When you live or work in Ballantyne, the border is easy to see," he said. "You could easily move and keep your clients, your friends and your lifestyle without any major inconveniences."

Ray Eschert, president of the Ballantyne Breakfast Club, said he anticipates residents will be upset if their property values are increased.

On Jan. 27, the club will hold a public revaluation meeting to allow residents to discuss their concerns with Cooksey and Chuck Hicks, leader of Mecklenburg County's evaluation team.

"I want residents to be informed about what's going on," said Eschert. "Instead of acting after the fact, by being proactive they can learn, analyze and react in a more appropriate way."