A task force of citizens and town and county leaders was meeting for the first time Thursday to look at possible changes to the legislation governing property revaluations. N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Cornelius) formed the working group in response to public outcry over Mecklenburg County’s 2011 property revaluation.
“This issue is important to my constituents in Mecklenburg County and other areas of the state,” Rep. Tillis said. “I have asked my staff to coordinate a working group on the issue to identify problems and determine if the legislature needs to take action.”
The revaluation process is governed by the Machinery Act, a law written in 1971. At a Mecklenburg County Commission meeting Feb. 7, Commissioner Karen Bentley said the revaluation and appeals process is “complex,” and is “delineated through a state law that I believe is antiquated.” She is a member of the speaker’s new working group.
POSSIBLE PROCESS VIOLATIONS
Questions about state law governing revaluations are just one of the issues citizens have raised in recent months. Many also believe the county assessor’s office failed to follow the existing rules, flawed or not, in the 2011 revaluation of county properties.
A group of Cornelius citizens led by retired commissioner Jim Bensman researched the 2011 revaluation and wrote a letter to the county commission last month outlining property owners’ complaints, including allegations that the assessor’s office broke state law.
But County Manager Harry jones defended staff at the County Commission meeting March 20.
“We believe that the entire process met all statutory rules and guidelines,” he said at the meeting, and find “no evidence of widespread errors.” The process “has been and is being conducted consistent with state law, and in a fair and equitable manner,” he said.
Commissioner Bentley at that meeting said transparency has been an ongoing problem. She asked that the staff provide all of the property information used to determine property values, and she requested a list of certifications held by each appraiser in the assessor’s office.
The assessor’s office responded to her request, and provided a list of action items last week that officials said they’ll take to improve communication and transparency. Mr. Jones also provided a list of staff certification levels in the assessor’s office – information that prompted additional concerns for some citizens: It showed no Mecklenburg County assessors hold a Mass Appraisal certification (mass appraisal was the method used to determine 2011 property values).
CITIZENS, COMMISSIONERS WANT AN AUDIT
Citizens are pleased to see the county’s response to several requests, Mr. Bensman said, but his group has yet to get what it really wants: an independent audit of the Assessor’s Office. Town Board members in both Cornelius and Huntersville have expressed support for the idea, as have county commissioners Bentley, James, Pendergraph and Cooksey.
Cornelius and Huntersville are not alone in challenging the revaluation – the effects are being felt statewide, leaders say, and Rep. Tillis’s working group includes people from across North Carolina.
The goal for Thursday’s study group meeting is for members to discuss their technical knowledge of the issue and identify problems, Rep. Tillis’ spokesperson Jordan Shaw said. The group will continue to meet over the next few months and will discuss possible changes to the existing legislation.
“This group will work methodically, involving many different stakeholders and engaging in various discussions over the next several months,” Rep. Tillis said. “I’m confident this process will yield positive results on this critical issue.”
See previous coverage of the revaluation on CorneliusNews.net.