Revised property values from a $7 million independent review of Mecklenburg County’s maligned 2011 revaluation did not differ much from the county’s own adjustments to property values over 2 1/2 years, according to a statistical study commissioners received Tuesday.
In a lengthy presentation, Josh Myers, a Virginia-based appraisal consultant, said the county’s process statistically was better than work performed by Pearson’s Appraisal Services, the firm the county hired to perform a sweeping review of the revaluation after it sparked a public uproar.
The county paid Pearson’s over $7 million to complete the review that ended last spring, County Tax Assessor Ken Joyner said. Officials paid Myers $23,160 to review both the county’s 2011 revaluation and Pearson’s subsequent review.
His report shows that changes to property values as a result of Pearson’s statistical evaluation were not that different overall from adjustments the county made after hearing property owner appeals from 2011 to 2013. Efforts to reach Pearson’s were unsuccessful Wednesday.
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Myers also said the county’s original valuation of properties met national appraisal standards, as did adjustments to tax parcels after property owners appealed their tax bills.
The county’s board of equalization and review heard those appeals and made value adjustments until a 2013 state law forced officials to hire an outside agency to take another look at all 360,000 county tax parcels.
We paid Pearson $7 million to do inferior work than what the county had already done.
Mecklenburg County commissioner George Dunlap
Once Pearson’s assigned new values to those properties, the board of equalization and review heard more than 24,000 appeals from property owners still dissatisfied with their bills.
The board either upheld Pearson’s valuation or ruled that the property values should be adjusted. To date, the county has paid over $74 million in refunds to taxpayers whose properties Pearson’s said were overvalued. It expects to mail about 25,000 more refunds this year, Joyner said.
69% values that saw no change
23% values that dropped
8% values that increased
Commissioner George Dunlap said Myers’ findings vindicate former tax assessor Garrett Alexander, former County Manager Harry Jones and other county staff “vilified” in the wake of the revaluation firestorm.
“We paid Pearson’s $7 million to do inferior work than what the county had already done,” Dunlap said. “There were a few people (on the board) who listened to people in the community who were upset and at their whim caused the county to have to incur all these costs.”
That flustered commissioner Matthew Ridenhour, who balked that the original 2011 revaluation was fair or accurate. He and other commissioners defended the decision to hire Pearson’s, which helped the county restore public trust.
“We hear equity and fairness on every topic we talk about,” Ridenhour said. “Some people in Myers Park … maybe they also wanted fairness and equity, too. If that $7 million … prevents the debacle that we had last time, that’s money well-spent.”
The county expects to undergo another revaluation by 2019.