Property taxes revalued amid economic recession

Published 3:47 pm Thursday, December 30, 2010

Contributing Writer

Contributing Writer
A two-year process of evaluating the value of Beaufort County property ended in March 2010 with valuation notices on 44,360 parcels of property.
The mailing of the new property valuation notices – known as “Notice of Real Estate Assessed Value” – was part of the property tax revaluation that counties are required to perform every eight years.
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 came during an economic downturn, most homes and land in Beaufort County increased in value over what was recorded in 2002 when property was last revalued.
The good news for local property owners was that, although property values increased, their property tax rate fell – in line with the county’s pledge to keep the tax rate revenue-neutral after revaluation.
Beaufort County’s revaluation came during an economic downturn that resulted in slower-than-normal real estate sales, which serve as a benchmark for property appraisers, causing the county to delay the mailing of the notices until some five months later than usual in the revaluation process.
After property owners received their tax notices, a process through which they could appeal those values began. They first held informal meetings with appraisers and, if still unsatisfied with their new property values, appealed those values to the Board of Equalization and Review.
The Board of Equalization and Review, which is comprised of members of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, met with property owners throughout much of the summer.
The property revaluation process culminated in late June when the county commissioners set a tax rate for the 2010-2011 budget at 50 cents per $100 valuation – 10 cents per $100 valuation lower than the previous year’s rate.
The new tax rate missed the commissioners’ revenue neutral goal by 1.8 cents per $100 valuation. That’s because one cent of the new rate will be used by the county to pay $543,200 in interest on a $4.8 million loan from First Citizens Bank to finance the purchase of property owned by the Beaufort Regional Health System.
Beaufort County expects to have a final accounting of its current property values, including values lost during the appeals process, shortly after the start of 2011, according to County Manager Paul Spruill.
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