The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners held its state-mandated public hearing on the proposed property tax schedule on Tuesday. The hearing, attended by about 10 people including media, staff and the public, drew two speakers.
Jerry Rice commented that he thought the county should have waited longer to hold the public hearing and noted he’s concerned the property tax rate will remain the same while values increase significantly. “That’s how you’ll borrow more money,” he said. The current property tax rate is 60.4 cents per $100 of valued property.
Lisa Baldwin noted that during the recession property tax revaluations were done less frequently. “Now values are accelerating, and the majority of the commission voted to revalue property,” she said. Baldwin also noted that sales tax revenue is increasing, especially from the Asheville Outlets, and that could offset property tax rates.
Commissioners closed the public hearing after the two speakers and heard a brief presentation from Keith Miller, the county’s chief appraiser.
Commissioner Tim Moffitt then said, “I actually read through 595 pages of the schedule and I have a series of questions.” He then asked Miller a variety of technical and general questions about how the property values are conceived.
Some questions of note include Moffitt’s observation the area is a tourist draw and that might create false market values. Miller said the county divides properties into submarkets, “Most of the time when a neighborhood is homogeneous, it stays in its boundaries,” he said, noting the appraisal process doesn’t allow unlike properties to affect values. “If a buyer is willing to buy, then it becomes market value,” said Miller.
Moffitt also asked what the highest value of an acre of vacant land in downtown Asheville would be. Miller responded, “What you also have to remember is that vacant land, the market has already determined what the value is. Where you will see value fluctuation in downtown is with height; uses are pretty much all comparable.”
Moffitt said he had his questions adequately answered. “I feel our tax assessors have done an excellent job. I’ve scrubbed through this document and I’ve learned a tremendous amount,” he said. “I encourage people to pull up this document. It’s informative, thorough and well-done.”
Commissioner Ellen Frost then asked about the appeal process and timeline. Miller said property tax revaluations will be sent out around January and the appeals process is open until April. He said the goal is to have the appeal form and instructions included with the revaluations, noting appeals can be done online, over the phone or in person.
Miller said there are three levels of appeals. The first is an informal process whereby a citizen provides new information that might change the property’s value. “Ninety-five percent of homes, we will never step foot inside. There is a tremendous amount of information we don’t have. I always encourage citizens to send pictures, invite us to walk through the house, and we will always try to work it out with them,” said Miller.
If the process does not provide a satisfactory result, then property owners initiate a formal appeals process in front of a five-member board of appointed citizens. The board will listen to property owners and assessors, and then make a decision based on that information.
The final appeal process is to take the case to the Property Tax Commission in Raleigh. “To brag on our office, we have very few that get to that step,” said Miller.
The commissioners did not take any formal action on the proposed tax schedule, but it will be up for final approval at their next meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 18.
You can view the proposed property tax schedule here.
The county will also start the process of selling five parcels of land, including the one-time potential location of Deschutes Brewery’s East Coast expansion, in hopes of generating $7.8 million in revenue.
County Manager Wanda Greene says the properties have not garnered any interest on the upset bid market and asked commissioners for permission to move ahead with having a real estate agent sell them.
Greene said there are issues with all of the parcels, ranging from being in the flood plain, being very steep, having heavy-duty power lines over the property and costing the county too much money to maintain property that has little development value.
Some commissioners noted that neighbors or community leaders might be able to identify uses for the land and asked staff to initiate that process while also moving forward with trying to sell the land.
The properties in question are: 137.21 acres on Ferry Road valued at $6.8 million; 2.08 acres at 32 Compton Drive valued at $915,000; 8.55 acres on U.S. 70 valued at $61,900; 0.95 acres at 108 Smokemont Drive valued at $44,100; and 1.17 acres at 1322 Double Knob Drive valued at $46,500.
You can view the properties’ footprints here.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
County commissioners also declared October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Julie Klipp Nicholson, coordinator of the county’s new Family Justice Center, said more than 100 survivors have used the facility’s resources since opening in August.
“We must recommit to holding offenders accountable. … We must once again say, ‘Enough, we do not tolerate domestic violence in Buncombe County,'” Klipp Nicholson told commissioners before receiving the official proclamation. You can read more about the Family Justice Center from Xpress’ story in August here.