The resolution, among other things, urges the Haywood County Board of Commissioner adjust erroneous property values, perform another revaluation in 2015 and get rid of its current method of property evaluation, which splits similar parcels into 900 different “neighborhoods.” The resolution alleges that properties in 119 of the neighborhoods are valued too highly.
However, Republican Commissioner Kevin Ensley defended the most recent property revaluation in 2011. He estimated that a review would cost the county more than $1 million and be less accurate than the county’s current method for evaluating properties. Hiring a consultant would be a “more difficult, less reliable method,” Ensley said.
The resolution also asks the county to drop its case against Haywood resident Denny King.
King has become a poster boy for a contingent of Haywood County residents who say the property revaluation conducted by the county in 2011 was erroneous and forced them to pay higher taxes. King, a Republican who has twice run for the county board (see related story), is locked in a battle with the county about the value assigned to his home and property.
Assessors valued King’s more than three-acre property in Canton at $205,100 in the 2011 revaluation; however, he felt that was excessive. He believed his property value should be $62,100 less, so he appealed it to the county Board of Equalization and Review. The Board of Equalization and Review is appointed by commissioners and is charged with determining whether homes and land were given a correct value.
“The value of my house increased substantially. I don’t believe the county has any data to validate the increase,” King said in an email. “Most homes in my neighborhood increased by approximately 30 percent with the last revaluation.”
When the county board denied King’s appeal, he took his case to the state, which sided with King. The state assigned a new value to King’s property, $172,200, which is less than the original appraised value from the county but not quite as low as King believed it to be.
“I am well pleased with the total value the N.C. Property Tax Commission assigned,” King said.
But the county did not let it rest with the state tax commission’s decision. Haywood County Tax Administrator David Francis asked for permission in mid-July to appeal the tax commission’s decision.
Some residents questioned why the county spent money on an appeal.
“People have told me they believe the county’s appeal is a waste of the taxpayer’s money, and I agree,” King said.
During the state hearing, only three commissioners on the state tax commission were present at a time, Francis said. A fourth showed up late, and another left early. He did not feel like the county got a fair shake, he told commissioners.
“We didn’t feel that we were heard,” Francis said.
King pays about $1,300 in property taxes to the county each year. The reduced value will equal a couple hundred dollars in savings each year.
The executive committee of the Haywood County Republican Party passed a resolution last month asking the county commissioners to reverse the decision to appeal and also get rid of the delineated neighborhood system.
Most counties in N.C. use a delineated neighborhood system, Francis said. The system divides the county’s 48,876 property parcels into neighborhoods of 30 or 40 similar plots that would have similar values. Based on extras such as complete basements or decks, size of the house, and wear and tear, the county uses a complex computer program to calculate the market value. During the revaluation, assessors visit each parcel to makes sure generated value matches the property’s specific characteristics.
The counties can only truly check the accuracy of values though once houses start moving off the market. The state requires counties to track actual sale prices compared to the estimated values.
If a county’s homes are selling on average 5 percent above assessed value, the county is awarded a percentage of 95 percent. Haywood County is currently at 103 percent, meaning that sales are coming in about 3 percent lower than the assessed value.
However in King’s case, he argued that the lots in his neighborhood were selling at 30 percent lower than the assessed value.
“I don’t believe all sales used by the county to set our neighborhood rate were valid, nor do they justify the 130 percent rate,” King said.
Commissioner Kevin Ensley said that three of four properties in King’s neighborhood sold for a price above the appraised value.
“I think this proves that our reval was spot on,” Ensley said.
However, King argued that what Ensley said was untrue.
“Last time I checked, I found four homes out of six that sold below their assessed value since the revaluation,” King said, with the caveat that his sales data may not be complete. “This is much different than the report Kevin Ensley gave during the last commissioners meeting.”
Based on his own research, King said lower-priced properties saw an increase in value, while more costly properties declined.
“This shifted more of the tax burden to the lower priced properties, whose owners can least afford the increase,” King said.
Although some properties are selling below their market value, Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick said, the board of commissioners is responsible for doing what’s best for the whole county, not just a minority residents.
“We are not there to protect necessarily one person’s rights. We are here for the county,” Kirkpatrick said.
The county commissioners as well as Francis said that neighborhood delineation is the most accurate way to assign values.
“I stand by the work that we did. I think it is very accurate,” Francis said.
King, commissioners have a history
The recent disagreement between Haywood County resident Denny King and county officials is not an isolated incident; the two have been at loggerheads for quite sometime.
King, a Republican who has run for a seat on the Haywood County Board of Commissioners in the last two elections, has been a consistent critic of board decisions, lambasting the commissioners as fiscally irresponsible. Meanwhile, the commissioners have fought back, censuring King and like-minded citizens whom they have said spread falsehoods about the 2011 property revaluation, taxes and county spending.
King has questioned whether houses would actually sell at their appraised values and even appealed his own property value all the way to the North Carolina Property Tax Commission, which reduced his appraised value. The county has since appealed the state decision (see related story).
Some in the political arena believe Haywood County’s decision to appeal King’s property value is a vendetta, that the county is making an example of him because of his outspokenness. Last month, the executive committee of the Haywood County Republican Party submitted a resolution to the board of commissioners to rescind its appeal of King’s property.
The resolution cited the commission’s written decision: “Appellants did present enough evidence tending to show that the county tax supervisor used an arbitrary method of valuation and that the county assessment substantially exceeded the true value in money of the property.”
King and county board Chairman Mark Swanger have gone tit for tat debating the facts. While King argued that taxes rose in 2011, Swanger said they did not.
Technically, the tax rate increased 3 cents in 2011; however, county officials contend the change was “revenue neutral,” meaning the county’s overall additional property tax revenue did not increase despite the tax hike. Property taxes were raised after the revaluation to ensure that Haywood County did not see a reduction in tax revenue as a result of reduced property values.
However, some individual taxpayers did pay more in taxes while other individuals paid less, depending on the value assigned to their homes and property during the revaluation. In general, the Haywood County revaluation saw most higher-priced homes go down in value while more modest houses retained their value or were assessed at a higher value. This pattern was the same nationwide.
Haywood County has had a tax rate of 54.1 cents per $100 of property valuation since 2011. That is still lower than the tax rate from 2000 to 2005 — 61 cents per $100 — but higher than the 2006 rate, when it dropped to 49.7 cents per $100.
During his campaign in 2012, King said he would work to reduce taxes. He also questioned the purchase of the old Walmart building in Clyde, which is now the new Department of Social Services office, and why the county paid for maintenance and upkeep of the MARC building while renting it out for $1 per year to nonprofits that serve the elderly.
Swanger and other county officials argued that the purchase of the old Walmart was necessary considering the dilapidated condition of DSS’s old offices and that the nonprofits in the MARC building offer valuable service to citizens.
Denny and his wife Deborah King own a three-bedroom home on three acres of land in Canton. For the last two years, he and the county have gone back and forth on the value of the property. King appealed the county-assigned value all the way to the state, only to have the county appeal again when the state lowered his property value.
•What the county says King’s home was worth after 2011 revaluation: $205,100
•What the county said King’s home was worth after 2006 revaluation: $197,600
•What King says it’s worth: $143,000
•What the state says it’s worth: $172,200