Assessed property values in Union County have decreased for the first time following a countywide revaluation, officials said Thursday.
The last countywide revaluation came in 2008 at the height of the residential real estate bubble, Tax Administrator John Petoskey said. He said while property values are recovering, they still have not reached 2008 levels, which led to the drop in values.
And that ultimately may lead to an increase in the tax rate.
County commissioners have long insisted that any revaluation result in a revenue-neutral impact on the budget. But if the county receives less money from property taxes, it either needs to raise the tax rate or find savings elsewhere.
Union County Board of Commissioners Chairman Richard Helms said he prefers to see if other parts of the budget can absorb the revenue decrease before considering a tax hike.
“If we don’t find money somewhere in the budget, we will require a tax increase,” he said. “That’s my last choice.”
Helms said even though commissioners are considering adding referendums to the ballot for capital improvements, he would not favor any if the tax rate has to go up.
Helms noted that commissioners already approved a big 15.4 percent tax hike last year, which commissioners said at the time was needed to cover school district expenses.
The county will send out 95,000 change of assessment notices next week.
While the overall tax base will decline, Petoskey said the county is still determining how much that drop will be.
Commissioners should get that figure at their April 6 meeting, County Manager Cindy Coto said. And that’s when they will start discussing solutions.
The average value of a home in the county is $233,079, Petoskey said.
In the revaluation, the median change for residential property value was a 5.4 percent decrease. Some 69 percent of residential property owners will see a decrease in assessed value.
Among the homes that took the biggest hits were those worth $1 million or more, Petoskey said, and typically were found in the western part of the county in communities like Waxhaw, Weddington and Marvin.
That’s because the market for upper-end homes has not recovered as fast as less-expensive homes.
Assessed values for commercial properties also took a hit – 55 percent saw a decrease in values, with an average drop of 2.3 percent.