Editorials

How’s the Mecklenburg property revaluation going? Here’s an early clue

Charlotte residents receive revaluations

Mecklenburg County owners received their new tax values for the first time in eight years with notices being mailed on Wednesday, January 23, 2019. The median increase for residential property was 43% with commercial property at 77%.
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Mecklenburg County owners received their new tax values for the first time in eight years with notices being mailed on Wednesday, January 23, 2019. The median increase for residential property was 43% with commercial property at 77%.

Remember the 2011 Mecklenburg County revaluation? We do. It was a nightmare of municipal incompetence and crisis mismanagement. By the time it was over, more than 41,000 property owners had filed appeals of their property values, and the county was forced to undergo a costly and embarrassing do-over.

Fast forward to 2019 and a new revaluation. Property owners learned their new tax values late last month. Are things different this time around? Here’s a number that provides the biggest clue:

As of last Friday, 5,489 appeals have been received by the Mecklenburg Assessor’s Office since values went out on Jan. 23 — less than half the 5,000-a-week pace at this point in 2011. Even better: After hitting an early peak, the number of total appeals per day has begun to decline. Certainly, that pace could change as a May 20 appeals deadline approaches, but all signs indicate that the county is going to get far fewer than the 2011 number and something more in line with the 18,000 who appealed in 2003. That’s good news.

“From my standpoint, that’s how it feels right now,” Mecklenburg assessor Ken Joyner told the editorial board last Friday. Joyner is reluctant to drop the confetti at this point — it’s early, after all, and his office is receiving some legitimate complaints on values. But we regularly explore on these pages how things don’t go the way they’re supposed to in government. Let’s spend a few moments on when they do.

What’s different with Reval 2019? Several things, Joyner said, but the biggest is also the most basic: Assessors are looking at more properties with their own eyes. Sounds simple, but before Joyner took over he assessor’s office in 2013, many Mecklenburg properties hadn’t been physically examined in 10-15 years. The industry standard is six years.

Now, officials have completed a physical walkaround of 82 percent of Mecklenburg’s 306,000 taxable parcels. That includes all the properties that had major or minor valuation issues eight years ago. “We’ve gone back to Assessment 101,” Joyner says. “We’re trying to get the system back to a standard of what our peers are doing across the country.”

Another big difference from 2011: Joyner, with encouragement from County Manager Dena Diorio, has dramatically changed how information is communicated to the public. He has overhauled the county’s reval website and simplified the reports that are mailed to property owners. Joyner also has made staffers available to people coming in off the street with questions about their valuation, and his office has held or scheduled information sessions for 148 neighborhood associations, civic clubs and other organizations.

Not all is going smoothly, certainly. Social media is dotted with valuation complaints, and there are reports of whole neighborhoods being questionably valued, including one in Pineville where houses surrounding a pond were suddenly deemed “waterfront property.” Mecklenburg commissioners also appear to be headed toward raising property taxes above a “revenue neutral” rate to support an ambitious agenda that includes universal pre-K and more money for schools.

Joyner’s office isn’t a part of those decisions, however. “I have no skin in the game,” he said of the relationship between revaluation and taxes. “All I want is for your value to be correct.”

So far, for the most part, that appears to be happening. Good job.

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