Leaders mull revaluation

Published 1:40 am Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Members of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners on Monday said the county should begin planning now for a possible revaluation of property in 2015, although they stopped short of a vote to approve the measure.
The county leaders said a revaluation should wait until new computer software is chosen and installed at the Beaufort County tax assessors office before beginning a revaluation of county property.
But they agreed that if they decided to go ahead with the plan, the county’s 2012-2013 fiscal year budget should allocate funds for a portion of the cost of the revaluation, estimated at more than $1 million.
The commissioners are tentatively scheduled to begin their budget discussions in early May.
“It’s a good thing to make preparations,” said Commissioner Robert Cayton. “But we don’t have to make a decision tonight.”
State law requires that property be appraised for taxation at 100 percent of its fair market value at least once every eight years.
Beaufort County’s most recent revaluation was completed in 2010 and under the eight-year timetable, the next revaluation would not occur until 2018.
But because of the recent downturn in the economy and falling real estate prices, property appraisals have begun to exceed the fair market value of that property, the commissioners have been told.
Real estate in the county is currently appraised for taxes, on average, about two percent higher than the estimated market value, Beaufort County Tax Administrator Bobby Parker told the board on Monday.
Some county leaders questioned whether a two percent overage is worth the cost to the county’s taxpayers of a new revaluation.
“I think we should wait and see if we’re out of line even more than we are with property values,” said Commissioner Jay McRoy. “Two percent is not worth spending $1.25 million to correct.”
And Commissioner Al Klemm said that if a five-year revaluation resulted in a significant drop in property values, that change would likely result in an increase in the property tax rate to make up for lost revenue.
In related business, the commissioners voted unanimously to give Parker the authority to advertise in the newspaper a list of all delinquent property taxpayers for the 2011 tax levy some time between the middle and the end of March.
As of Jan. 31, there were 11,399 delinquent tax bills totaling some $4.28 million for real and personal property.
Jerry Langley, board chairman, was absent due to an illness. Cayton, the board’s vice chairman, presided at the meeting.

Other business before the county board

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners approved several items on its agenda at its meeting Monday. In other action, the board:
– Voted 5-1 to approve $13,601.11 in travel requests with Commissioner Hood Richardson casting the sole dissenting vote.
– Voted unanimously to approve a calendar for discussions of the county’s 2012-2013 fiscal year budget with review of County Manager Randell Woodruff’s recommended spending plan to begin May 7.
– Appointed Lt. Jamie Cahoon of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office to the county’s Dangerous Dog Board but delayed appointments to the Beaufort County Community Advisory Council pending review of several applications from residents who have volunteered to serve on county boards.
– Unanimously voted to approve budget amendments for the Department of Social Services to reflect additional state revenue distributed to counties to offset adoption program costs and a grant awarded to the Beaufort County Board of Elections to cover upgrades needed at some county polling places to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
– Voted 5-1 to appropriate $10,000 to help fund activities related to Beaufort County’s Tricentennial Celebration with McRoy casting the sole dissenting vote.
– Voted unanimously to authorize the Purpose of God Annex Outreach Center and the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office to apply for grants from the Governor’s Crime Commission.
– Voted unanimously to lease two buildings on Highland Drive in Washington to Higher Heights Human Services Inc. for three years at the rate of $1 per year to operate a home for young mothers.
– Voted unanimously to award contracts for construction of three homes through the Community Development Block Grant Scattered Site Program to two Beaufort County firms, Lyons Custom Builders and B & B Construction.
– Scheduled an all-day planning retreat for 8:30 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 17 at the N.C. Estuarium in Washington and scheduled the next commissioners meeting for Monday, March 12, due to a conflict with the National Association of Counties 2012 Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.