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County board delays key vote in revaluation

Mecklenburg County residents will have to wait a little longer to find out whether the county's planned reassessment of property values will take place in 2009, or be pushed back at least one year.

Commissioners unanimously agreed Wednesday to delay until Dec. 2 a vote that would set a public hearing on a key step in the upcoming revaluation. That would mean the newly elected slate of commissioners would reconsider the issue because the current board finishes its term at the end of this month.

The Dec. 2 vote is crucial because the county tax assessor has said commissioners must agree by that date to schedule a public hearing or the revaluation can't take place in 2009.

Mecklenburg is in the midst of its first revaluation since 2003. Across the county, property values have risen by about 20 percent since the last reassessment, though some areas have seen prices climb much higher and others have seen declines.

County administrators and the board's Democrats have said a revaluation in 2009 would address some inequities in the county, with some homeowners paying more in taxes than the current market dictates and others paying less.

But Republican commissioners want to delay the revaluations until 2010, saying housing prices could fall in the coming year because of the economic downturn.

Two weeks ago, commissioners were in a 4-4 deadlock along party lines over whether to delay the revaluation. It was believed that new commissioner George Dunlap, a Democrat who sat in on his first meeting Wednesday, would have helped to break the impasse.

But Democrat Parks Helms, who made the motion to delay Wednesday's vote, said he didn't believe there were enough votes to go ahead with the revaluation. He said the new slate of commissioners should vote on how to proceed with the property reassessments because the process will largely unfold during their upcoming term.

Also Wednesday, commissioners received a report from a citizen's committee charged with looking for ways to improve the local criminal justice system. Commissioners decided to proceed with one of the recommendations – the creation of a position to oversee all the local justice agencies – but will let the next slate of commissioners decide whether to implement the other ideas.

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