Monday evening, upset property owners voiced their anger and concerns to the McDowell County Board of Commissioners about new values sent out as part of the 2023 revaluation.
The commissioners urged those who came to Monday’s meeting and any other property owners who are worried about the new values to go through the appeals process later this spring.
“We encourage everyone to appeal if your property value is wrong,” said Vice Chairman David Walker.
The issue of the 2023 revaluation resulted in a big crowd at Monday’s regular meeting of the McDowell County Board of Commissioners. The meeting was held at the administrative building on North Main Street in Marion.
Early in the meeting, the commissioners heard an update about the revaluation from County Manager Ashley Wooten.
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In 2019, the commissioners agreed to move McDowell County from an eight-year reval cycle to a four-year cycle, which is recommended by the N.C. Department of Revenue. It is also a common schedule now used by 43 other counties in the state, said Wooten.
Around the beginning of March, property owners got notices of the new values. The notices are required to provide the property owner the new market value as determined by the schedule of values. The schedule, which was adopted last fall, is based on sales data for properties in McDowell County, according to county officials.
“The goal is to make sure your property is valued at the market value,” said Walker to those who attended the meeting.
The county contracted with an independent company, Assessment Solutions of N.C., to be the consultant on the revaluation. At a previous meeting, consultant Tim Cain with Assessment Solutions stated McDowell County would likely face significant value increases due to market conditions. This trend has been seen throughout North Carolina for counties that are also doing revaluations in 2023. McDowell County experienced an approximate 43% increase in property value increase for the tax entire base (which includes taxable and nontaxable property). The approximate increase in value for taxable properties was approximately 35%, according to county officials.
In the notices, property owners were provided instructions about how they can appeal the new values. They have multiple opportunities to appeal, starting with the informal meetings with county staff.
The commissioners, meeting as the Board of Equalization and Review, will be the appropriate public body to hear the formal appeals if the property owner is still not satisfied. All requests for a formal appeal must be made in writing and on the proper form. That process will begin during the end of April and will meet as needed through the end of May, according to county officials.
Commission Chairman Tony Brown said he’s got a problem with a new value for one of his properties.
Later in the meeting during the citizen comment portion, commissioners heard from several residents. Before the citizen comment section, Brown informed the crowd that each speaker had just three minutes to talk about their concerns.
Ronnie Burgin, who has previously criticized this revaluation process, brought forward copies of new values for various properties in McDowell County. He said many of them have gone up far greater than 43%. In some cases, the property values have gone up by 300% or 400% or more.
“I mean, we are looking at 500% increases, folks,” Burgin said to commissioners. “And this is a poor county. They are killing us. There’s a lot of people here that’s on a fixed income. In the city limits of Marion, 68% of the registered voters is over 60 years old. How they going to pay for it? ... How are they going to pay it on a fixed income?”
Dean Moore also spoke.
“We have a fantastic county, lots of good services, but I am very concerned about this tax increase and it’s not just me,” said Moore. “There’s lots of people that’s not here.”
He added the medium average wage in McDowell County is $788 a month. “Rent’s going up way higher than that,” he said. “It’s going to be over a week’s pay for them to pay rent. You can’t do that.”
Moore urged the commissioners to lower the property tax rate. He said Catawba County officials are planning to do just that.
“The thing is, it’s not going to be the tax values. It’s going to be the tax rates,” he said, which drew loud applause from the crowd.
Brown responded by saying the commissioners raised the property tax rate a few years ago but is seeking to lower it back. “We promised we would give that back and we will,” said Brown to the crowd. “We will give that back over the next couple of years.”
He also said he agrees with what has been said by the people who are opposed to the new values.
Kevin Revis was another person who spoke.
“What you is trying to do is force the poor people out of here so all this property can be sold off to people who’s got the money to pay these taxes. That’s all I got to say,” he said.
Eddie Anderson said there is unimproved property in McDowell going up by 300% or 400%. He also told the commissioners to accept responsibility for the new values. “Don’t try to deflect the blame by saying somebody else did it,” said Anderson. “You guys hired him. You accepted the work. You directed the work and you accepted the work.”
Another resident said that come election time, he would try to do what he can to see that the commissioners find a new hobby.
After hearing from the residents, the commissioners adjourned the meeting.