Letter: Buncombe tax appraisal system may be as good as any other

Graphic by Lori Deaton

It’s clear in the article “Tax Tuning: Buncombe Tries to Fix Its Property Tax Appraisal System” [Nov. 30, Xpress] and previously published articles, that Mr. Minicozzi from Urban3 has little understanding of the mass appraisal process. The assessor is not equipped with adequate money or personnel to appraise each property so that the tax roll is perfect in Buncombe County.

A commercial tax article [“Deal or No Deal? A Closer Look at Buncombe’s Commercial Property Assessments,” Aug. 3, Xpress] had an example of an appeal that compared an apartment building to a hotel across the street. Not being a commercial person, I hesitated to write a letter on that one. However, commercial property valuations are primarily based on the income stream that is valued by a potential purchaser. Why the hearing officer allowed the complainant to compare land values and prevail is mind-boggling.

Even if there was a comparison, there is no justification on lowering an assessment based on comparing assessments. What you do to correct the discrepancy is raise the assessment that was too low the following year. Only the total number should be argued at an appeal, not how the assessor got to that number. In other words, you could have a dollar on the land or a dollar on the building, but only the total number of the assessment is to be argued.

Although not a perfect system, Buncombe County’s is probably as good as any other system used for mass appraisal. One could reassess every year to avoid large increases in an upward trending market, but that again would take more money and personnel for the assessor.

Any discrepancy on high-end versus low-end properties can potentially be corrected by additional building inspectors, code enforcement people and tightening the permit process to require specific permits. More and more potential buyers are having permit searches done in order to verify whether the work that has been done on a property they are purchasing is legal and compliant.

I should add that after spending 14 years assessing high-end properties and an additional 16 years as a special magistrate hearing thousands of appeals in six different counties, I have never had a planner testify to value.

— Joy Hearn
Maggie Valley


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One thought on “Letter: Buncombe tax appraisal system may be as good as any other

  1. Ori Baber

    Unfortunately “as good as any other” is not good at all. There is very strong evidence that the accuracy of property assessments is quite bad at the low and high end of the home value spectrum. Less expensive homes are consistently over-assessed in comparison to higher value homes— at a rate that 1.4-1.9 times higher in fact. This trend disproportionately burdens Black and low-income residents in our community.

    I’m encouraged to see that in other communities, property assessors are willing to acknowledge this systemic problem and seek swift, comprehensive reform to assessment policies and practices. Hoping that level of professional integrity works its way to WNC, rather than rallying to protect the status quo.

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