Kimmerly Woods residents must return big refunds from reval error

A clerical error during the ongoing review of the 2011 revaluation led to some oversized refunds for one townhouse neighborhood in east Charlotte.

But after the error was caught through the honesty of one property owner at Kimmerly Woods Townhomes on Kimmerly Glen Lane, all the property owners who got the refunds will have to give back the amount – minus what they were really owed, Mecklenburg County Tax Assessor Ken Joyner told county commissioners Tuesday.

The problem began when field reviewers for Pearson’s Appraisal Service placed higher improvement values on Kimmerly’s 33 units last March. But a data entry mistake in June – when the wrong code was entered – made the automated appraisal system think that the parcels were nothing but land.

So when Joyner went to get approval from commissioners on the value changes, he gave them Pearson’s recommended value of $7,800 for the land only.

In July, as property owners were about to be notified of the lower values, Pearson’s discovered the mistake and asked that the notices not be sent.

“My staff was notified of the problem,” Joyner said. “We were told that the values would be corrected soon.”

They weren’t. So in late October, when those parcels were sent through the automated process, the computer saw the same wrong code and sent the parcels back to the land-only values.

Refunds totaling $67,469 were sent to 27 of the 33 parcels.

In August, Joyner’s office discovered the mistake when a property owner called. “She said: ‘I thought I might get a refund, but this was more than I expected,” Joyner said. The refund, he said, was for about $2,000.

Tuesday, commissioners approved the correct values. Joyner said his office has spoken to 16 of the property owners. Many had cashed and spent the checks, he said. One returned the check. They all will need to pay back the money they owe, or be billed for it, he said. The property owners will have until January 2016 to pay it back.

Meantime, Pearson’s is not holding Mecklenburg responsible for the money. To date, the county has paid the appraisal firm more than $4.8 million to conduct the review. It will withhold payment of the amount of tax money that was wrongly refunded. As that money is recouped, Pearson’s will be paid, Joyner said.

Reval review by numbers

Joyner updated commissioners on the review, in which all 356,000 parcels had been field reviewed by late November – required of Mecklenburg by state law after hundreds of complaints.

He said processing is slated to be complete by March. To date, 2,422 property owners have appealed their new values.

Three in four parcels were unchanged.

The county so far has mailed out 160,694 refunds, totaling $12.2 million. It expects to refund $11.7 million more.

Joyner also expects 64,008 properties to increase in value, with about 33,000 bills already sent to under-taxed property owners. The bills have totaled $2.3 million, and there could be bills sent out for another $9.4 million.

He said appeals, refunds and bills will continue into late 2015.