E&R hearings begin Thursday

Published 8:13 pm Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Staff Writer

The next step in Beaufort County’s property revaluation begins Thursday when the Board of Equalization and Review is scheduled to resolve the first 20 appeals from taxpayers who disagree with the new assigned values of their properties.
The board, composed of members of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, is set to hold the first of 16 scheduled meetings from 5:15 to 9 p.m. Thursday in the Commissioners Meeting Room in the Beaufort County Administrative Building in Washington.
Each appeal should take about 15 minutes, after which the board will vote whether to grant the property owner’s request.
The appeals before the Board of Equalization and Review are the latest step in the revaluation process for Beaufort County that establishes the value for some 44,360 pieces of real estate along with equipment and vehicles owned by county taxpayers.
About 4,000 information hearings, for about 9 percent of Beaufort County property owners, were held earlier this year for taxpayers requesting a decrease in the value of their properties, according to Beaufort County Tax Assessor Bobby Parker.
Of that number, about 3,500 requests had been granted, Parker said.
The next step for a taxpayer who is still dissatisfied with the newly assigned value of his or her property is an appeal before the Board of Equalization and Review, Parker said.
On average, the board grants about one-fourth of the requests for a change, he said.
Those who schedule an appeal before the board are encouraged to bring documentation such as a recent appraisal or sales record of comparable properties that supports their claims for lower property values, he said.
“They don’t need to walk into the Board of Equalization and Review and just say ‘My value is too high,’” Parker said.
Parker also asked people who schedule a hearing before the Board of Equalization and Review but decide not to appeal the values of their properties to call the tax assessor’s office and cancel their appointments so those slots can be filled by other taxpayers.
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.
Despite the fact that Beaufort County’s revaluation comes during an economic downturn, county leaders expected that most homes and land in Beaufort County would increase in value over values recorded in 2002, when the last revaluation occurred.
County property owners can now gauge the amounts of their next year’s property tax bills, based on their new values, following the May 10 presentation by County Manager Paul Spruill of his recommended 2010-2011 budget.
Spruill recommended a property tax rate of 52 cents per $100 of valuation, a drop of 8 cents per $100 valuation from the current tax rate of 60 cents per $100 valuation. But that rate could drop an additional 3 cents per $100 valuation if an upcoming $1.57 million debt payment for Beaufort County Medical Center, formerly the Beaufort County Hospital, is resolved before the county commissioners adopt the 2010-2011 budget.
Without the medical center set-aside, the budget just misses — by .8 cents per $100 — Spruill’s targeted revenue-neutral tax rate of 48.2 cents per $100 valuation.
It is based on a tax base of $5,503,961,852 for fiscal year 2010-2011, for an increase of about 29 percent, when compared to the tax base for the current fiscal year.
To schedule an appointment for an appeal before the Board of Equalization and Review, property owners should contact Parker at 252-946-7981.