“Currently, what we’re seeing is a 25 to 30 percent increase,” said Judy Hickman, Haywood County’s tax assessor.
Hickman’s statement, delivered to Haywood commissioners during a March 1 meeting, comes with all sorts of caveats.
Right now, the county is in the final phase of the revaluation process and will conduct edits and a review of the data before property owners begin to receive their new valuations by mail, near the end of March or beginning of April. The 25 to 30 percent figure she cited will of course vary by property, with all manner of considerations affecting a property owner’s final number.
Some neighborhoods will increase by 40 or 50 percent over values that were last set for January 2017, according to Hickman.
“For 2020 alone we had 1,800-plus valid sales that we looked at,” she said, calling the data “substantial evidence” for rising property values in the county.
The new assessed values will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022 and will affect the county’s budgeting process at that time without really playing into the county’s current process for building a new budget, which will take effect on July 1 of this year and run through June 30, 2022.
Property valuation is but one factor that determines the actual tax bill property owners will have to pay starting next year, but it’s not an outright guarantee that the tax bills of property owners will go up.
For example, if a property in Haywood County is currently valued at $100,000 and taxed at the current rate of 58.5 cents per $100 in valuation, the tax bill would be $585 for the year. If the new valuation puts the property at $130,000 it would incur a tax bill of $760.50 at the same 58.5-cent tax rate.
That would theoretically flood Haywood County’s coffers with excess revenue above and beyond that which is needed to maintain the county’s current operations — salaries, rents, debt payments, equipment and the like.
At that point, commissioners could, in crafting the fiscal year 2022-23 budget, make one of several decisions.
Keeping the tax rate — that 58.5 cents per $100 figure — the same after the new values hit would generate a huge increase in revenue, roughly 30 percent, and allow for more spending on needed projects.
Lowering the tax rate to a revenue-neutral level would offset the valuation increase and keep the tax bills of property owners the same while generating essentially the same amount of revenue as the county currently receives. Using the previous example, if that $100,000 property sees an increase of 30 percent in value, a corresponding 30 percent cut in the tax rate — down to maybe 41 cents per $100 — would keep everything basically the same as it is now.
A third route would end up with commissioners basically splitting the difference with taxpayers, perhaps reducing the tax rate by a few cents so as to still end up with slightly more revenue than in recent years due to slight increases in property tax bills.
Which route they take will be a political decision that will result in County Manager Bryant Morehead being directed to craft a larger, smaller or similar 2022-23 budget than the 2021-22 budget that will be adopted this year.
During the meeting, commission Chairman Kevin Ensley said that the tax rate will definitely move in a downward direction.
“I’m always committed to being revenue-neutral, as much as we can,” Ensley said after the meeting. “I think Bryant [Morehead] mentioned we might need a penny or two for the jail. I think I foresee a lot of people shocked by values, but just because your value goes up doesn’t necessarily mean your taxes will.”
Once valuations are mailed out, they will also outline a multi-level appeals process for those who think their values aren’t accurate. For more information on the upcoming revaluation, visit www.haywoodcountync.gov/273/Tax-Assessment-DepartmentTax-Assessment-Department.