Tax valuations cometh

Published 7:46 am Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Staff writer

A two-year process of evaluating the value of Beaufort County property nears an end with the expected mailing Monday of valuation notices on 44,360 pieces of property. The notices should begin arriving in mailboxes this morning, according to county Tax Assessor Bobby Parker.
“It’s been a long process,” Parker said in an interview Monday.
But the question on most property owners minds – concerning the size of their property tax bills based on the new values – won’t be answered until later this spring when the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners sets the new tax rate.
The mailing of the new property valuation notices – known as “Notice of Real Estate Assessed Value” – is part of the property tax revaluation that counties are required to perform every eight years.
Beaufort County’s revaluation comes during an economic downturn that has resulted in slower than normal real estate sales, which serve as a benchmark for property appraisers.
Therefore, the mailing of the new property values comes about five months later than usual in the revaluation process in order to give appraisers as many sales to use to evaluate comparable property values, according to Parker.
“I think we’ve done an exceptional job given the conditions that we have had this year,” he said. “I feel confident that we’ve done about all that we can do.”
Property owners who disagree with the appraised value of their property listed in the valuation notice can appeal the values by requesting, within 15 days of receiving their notice, an informal review.
This initial reassessment is performed by a real estate appraiser, who will thoroughly review and consider the appeal, Parker said.  
Appraisers are expected to begin meeting as early as next week with property owners who want to appeal the new values, he said.
Once property owners are notified of the results of the review, they have the option of accepting the recommendation or appealing further.  
The next step in the appeals process is to formally appeal to the Board of Equalization and Review, which, in Beaufort County, is comprised of the members of the Board of Commissioners.
The Board of Equalization and Review is charged, by state law, to begin meeting no later than the first Monday in May, Parker said.
Parker had one piece of advice to property owners who disagree with the new appraisal of their property: “Be patient.” he said. “No tax bills will go out until after the informal hearings and after the Board of Equalization and Review.”
State law requires that property be appraised for taxation at 100 percent of its fair market value at least once every eight years. The current revaluation of property will ensure that all property values match their current market value and that every property owner is taxed fairly, county leaders have said.
And despite the fact that Beaufort County’s revaluation comes during an economic downturn, county leaders expect that most homes and land in Beaufort County will likely increase in value over that recorded in 2002, when property was last revalued.
The good news for local 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.
But taxpayers won’t know what that rate – and, subsequently, their property tax bills – will be until the county commissioners set the new tax rate later this spring.
They’ll likely get their first hint when County Manager Paul Spruill presents his budget proposal to the county commissioners sometime in mid-May.