When the taxman comes calling to inspect each of Buncombe County’s 127,000 individual properties for the purpose of establishing their tax value this year, in many cases he won’t be a man at all.
Reveal 250, a high-definition camera system deployed using flyover technology, and Cyclomedia, a vehicle-based 360-degree measurement system, will be among the tools in a hybrid data-collection effort that will save the county time and money, Tax Assessor Keith Miller told the Board of Commissioners at its Jan. 7 pre-meeting.
Beginning this month, the department will use a variety of methods — which might still include in-person walkarounds, as well as referencing existing data — to bring tax assessments into line with current market values, Miller said.
“The new flyover with the Reveal 250 — we can do roof inspections; we can do siding inspections; we can actually see damage anywhere on these houses. We can actually see the dog standing in the door, if he was there,” Miller said. “By looking at the roof, we can make a determination on how many bathrooms are in the house, how many fireplaces are in the house. We can see cracks in a wall.”
The Cyclomedia street-level vehicle photography setup accurately measures the height, length, width and area of properties, Miller said. The tax department plans to share the imagery generated using both technologies with county emergency service agencies, such as the Sheriff’s Office and fire departments, as well as the departments responsible for planning and for tracking addresses, he added.
Parcel reappraisals are required every eight years by state law unless a four-year schedule is adopted by the county. The county changed its revaluation schedule last February, citing an upward trend in home values and the need to maintain adequate tax revenue to finance public services.
Miller said his department will be evaluating properties through December, and property owners can expect video, television and social media outreach from the agency. A reappraisal guide is also expected to be released in February.
“When citizens hear that they’re going to be reappraised, the first thing they think is that their taxes are going to go up,” Miller said. “What I also want to stress [is that] reappraisal is a good thing.”
The new property values will be effective Jan. 1, 2021, and property owners can appeal the valuations in February and March 2021. County Commissioners will then determine a new tax rate by the end of June 2021, which means property owners could see a change in their tax bill in August 2021, according to Miller’s presentation.
The results of Buncombe County’s last revaluation were approved in 2017 and produced an approximately 28% increase in the value of the county’s property base, according to previous reporting by Xpress. And while the results showed that the county could have cut the property tax rate by 7 cents without losing revenue, that year’s figure ended up being 2.6 cents higher than the revenue-neutral rate. The county’s current tax rate stands at 60.4 cents.
Commissioners heard tearful pleas from members of some of the nearly 20 households in Fernwood Mobile Home Park in Fairview during the regular meeting of the board on Jan. 7. The residents worried about being displaced by developer David Day’s plans to redevelop the park, which is located off Charlotte Highway, for a commercial use.
“I’ve been in that park since I was 6 years old. I’m 53 now,” said resident Renee Hensley. “I feel like people want us gone from there because they think mobile homes are an eyesore. We actually have a good-looking community, for the most part.”
County staff had favored the zoning change on the grounds that the mobile home park doesn’t comply with current floodplain regulations, while the Planning Board said the request was inconsistent with the county’s land use plan and recommended commissioners deny the rezoning.
Commissioners rejected the proposal on a unanimous vote.