Revaluation refunds could force county budget cuts

It’s still unclear whether south Charlotte residents who saw major or minor errors in their 2011 property tax revaluation will get refunds from what they’ve already paid following the much-maligned process but south Mecklenburg’s county commissioner says he’s going to try.

County leaders received a lot of backlash following the 2011 property tax revaluation, prompting a review. Some said their homes were valued too high and area foreclosures weren’t taken into account.

Pearson’s Appraisal Service was recently hired by the county to review the revaluation process after thousands of homeowners complained their property was valued incorrectly. In a recent study, Pearson’s found numerous problems with the process. Now, Commissioner Bill James says south Mecklenburg residents want their problems fixed and need a refund for the money they’ve already paid.

“My concern is that people are disillusioned that the county really doesn’t want to solve the problem because the majority of the old board said they didn’t want to give refunds,” James said, referring to the commission prior to last November’s election. “I’m a firm believer that we have been collecting taxes for two years on inflated values – those should be refunded to people.”

James said refunding the money would pose another problem since government would lose revenue.

“If we give them the refund, that means we would have to go without the revenue and make cuts. It’s going to be unpleasant no matter how this goes forward,” he said.

As of right now, the board is looking to Pearson’s to help correct errors that occurred, starting with those homeowners who turned in appeals, though James said the scope of the problem stretches further than the number of appeals since many homeowners who saw errors opted to not “jump through all the legal hoops to get their values corrected,” he said.

That’s why James says he thinks commissioners should vote to wipe the slate clean and opt for a “revaluation redo.”

“The study showed a minimum 10 percent error rate, and on some residential properties it showed up to 40 percent error. That’s a huge flaw,” he said. “We didn’t hit our goal of updating property values… The only thing that is going to fix this is a revaluation redo.”

Without reimbursements, James is afraid homeowners will lose faith in government. He said many people have come to him asking for help or guidance on how to get their errors fixed, but many homeowners haven’t followed through on appeals simply because the process is so tough, he said.

Though many residents are hoping for reimbursements, James said it would take some changes from the state to make that happen.

“We won’t know until the legislature gets settled in and takes a look at it,” he said. “They have shown a willingness in the legal changes that would allow us to give refunds. But as of right now, government can make mistake after mistake and is never really held accountable.”

The review group will give an update Feb. 5 on the general work plan involved with moving forward from the revaluation’s errors and will discuss how to address minor problems at their Feb. 19 meeting. Solutions on how to address major errors are still to be determined.

Right now, James said Pearson’s is still focused on correcting property revaluations from the 2011 appeals, which likely will be finished within the next 60 days. The entire process of corrections should wrap up by November this year, he said.
Some south Charlotte neighborhoods included in the list of those seeing “minor” errors include the Park Road Extension area, Huntingtowne Farms, Park Road, Carmel Road at Sharon View Road, Charing Place, Sardis Road North, Oberbeck Farms, Shadow Lake, Stonecroft, Carmel at Interstate 485, Berkeley, Oxford at Southampton and Raeburn, according to Pearson’s. “Major” problems were seen in the Governor’s Square area, Pellyn Woods, Sharon Woods, Lake Providence, Providence Plantation and Glyndebourne.

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