Revaluation: The taxman cometh|With state-mandated revaluation, many homeowners will pay higher property-tax bills even as they struggle to sell their homes in the sagging real-estate market

Published 3:05 am Sunday, June 21, 2009

Special to the Daily News

Beaufort County property values could increase, on average, about 35 percent when appraisals underway in the Beaufort County Tax Assessor’s Office are completed later this year, according to Beaufort County officials.
That increase is in line with recent property revaluation increases in neighboring eastern North Carolina counties. Those counties have seen average increases in property-tax values between 15 and 45 percent.
But, as in other counties, some property owners are likely to see more dramatic increases than others.
Five neighboring counties – Edgecombe, Hyde, Lenoir, Martin and Nash — completed their property revaluations in the last year.
Lenoir County saw the smallest average increase in property values of the five counties — about 15 percent — with the largest increase coming from increased values on farm property and medium-priced homes, according to Darrell Parrish, Lenoir County tax administrator.
Hyde County saw the largest average increase in property values of the five counties — about 43 percent. The largest increase in values was on waterfront property and in the Ponzer area as a result of the recent opening of Rose Acre Egg Farm, according to Hyde County Manager Carl Classen.
State law requires that property be appraised for taxation at 100 percent of its fair market value at least once every eight years.
The revaluation of property that will take effect in 2010 will ensure that all property values match their current market value and that every property owner is taxed fairly, Beaufort County Manager Paul Spruill said in a recent interview.
Beaufort County’s revaluation comes during an economic downturn.
The combination of a tough economy and rising property values leaves county officials nervous that many taxpayers will experience sticker shock when they receive their new property notices later this year and subsequent tax notices in 2010.
“It’s a very scary eight-year cycle,” Spruill said. “Beaufort County has seen a real estate boom in the last eight years as compared to previous eight-year cycles.”
Spruill said that, as in Hyde County, waterfront property owners should see the largest increase in the value of their homes and land as a result of the current revaluation.
“The waterfront property owners know what they have and what they are facing,” he said.
But as in Lenoir County, owners of medium-priced homes should also see a big jump in values, he said.
“The real sticker shock is going to be the well-kept single-family ranch that previously had been valued around $89,000,” Spruill said.
Concern over rising property values in Beaufort County, along with the economic downturn, has reached the halls of the state legislature where Rep. Arthur Williams, D-Beaufort. He has introduced a bill that could stay implementation of new property values across North Carolina by one year.
“I was just trying to help the taxpayers of North Carolina,” he said. “That’s my goal.
The bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Timothy Spear, D-Washington, has been referred to the House Finance Committee.
But Spruill and even Williams see little chance of it being approved.
The good news for Beaufort County property owners is that although their property values will increase, their property tax rate will likely fall — in line with the county’s pledge to keep the tax rate revenue neutral after revaluation.
With a similar goal of a “revenue neutral” tax structure,” Hyde County’s tax rate fell by 11.5 cents per $100 of value following that county’s revaluation as a result of the dramatic increase in property values. Lenoir County’s tax rate fell 4 cents per $100 of value following its revaluation.
But Beaufort County property owners can still expect to see their taxes increase in 2010.
“I have been directed to do the job as best as I can to produce a revenue-neutral budget, with the exception of a natural growth in the tax base, but homeowners will still see an average increase of approximately 11 percent in their tax bills after this revaluation is completed,” Spruill said.