By DAVID BORAKS
A consultant next week will formally recommend that the Mecklenburg County Commission and county staff fix problems with the county’s 2011 property revaluation, and overhaul the assessor’s office to improve transparency and customer service.
How county officials might respond isn’t yet clear. But if they don’t act, the area’s newly elected state Senator warned Wednesday the legislature could could step in with legislation requiring a fix – possibly one more drastic than what the county might do.
“If they (the county) don’t fix it, the answer is we will,” state Sen.-elect Jeff Tarte said at a meeting Wednesday at Cornelius Town Hall. And what would that fix entail?
“A fair and equitable solution would require a complete and total re-do of the 2011 revaluation,” he said.
Wednesday’s meeting was one of a series of presentations to residents by Pearson’s Appraisal Service, which the county hired earlier this year to review the 2011 revaluation.
Emmett Curl, the firm’s manager on the project, repeated what he has said several times this week: He thinks the revaluation was flawed. He cited inconsistencies in valuations in some neighborhoods, especially older ones where properties are widely varied – new and old or large and small, for example.
Pearson’s listed problem neighborhoods as “major” or “minor,” depending on the severity of apparent inconsistencies in valuations. Among those in the “major category” was the Peninsula, on Lake Norman.
Pearson’s study included only a sampling of neighborhoods. Mr. Curl said he thinks the county should do a broader study to identify all the neighborhoods where problems can be found. The county should revalue homes in those neighborhoods, he said, and overhaul the assessor’s office to improve transparency and customer service.
But he also reminded property owners in the room the outcome ultimately would be a political decision. “All we can do is make the report. It’s up to your elected officials to decide,” Mr. Curl said.
More than 200 property owners were at Cornelius Town Hall Wednesday night, similar to the number who attended an August meeting with Mr. Curl at the start of the review.
Cornelius residents were among the first to complain about the 2011 revaluation, and over the past 18 months they’ve been among the most vocal in calling for change. They’ve told story after story about inconsistent valuations, especially among properties on Lake Norman, and about a demeaning and insulting appeals process.
“This county has a credibility problem,” said one resident.
Several speakers suggested that Mr. Curl make his final report, due to the county commission next Tuesday, Nov. 20, as clear as possible about flaws and fixes. “”The mistakes are so clear and so defiant. … Could you possibly be more clear?” asked Susan Medlin, a former Cornelius commissioner. “This (the county commission) is a group of individuals who don’t even think there’s a problem.”
While she was critical of the county commission, Ms. Medlin specifically excluded District 1 Commissioner Karen Bentley. Ms. Bentley was in the audience Wednesday night, and she credited local property owners for calling attention to the problem and helping to bring about the review.
“I will tell you if it weren’t for you all and my leadership on our board, this (the review) would not have happened,” she said. “So we have their attention.”
Ms. Bentley said some local officials have been meeting with legislative leaders to lobby for special legislation that would be needed before the county could re-do the 2011 revaluation.
Mr. Tarte, the outgoing major of Cornelius, said the legislature likely will give the county time to implement the consultant’s recommendations. If that doesn’t happen, he said, the legislature will act. He said after the meeting that a bill might require the county to:
- Re-do the 2011 revaluation across the county
- Hire an independent consultant to conduct the new revaluation, with enough money to do it within 4-6 months.
- Issue refunds (plus interest) where values were overstated.
Refunds could prove the ugliest side effect of a new revaluation. Mr. Tarte said he thinks local officials now should consider putting money in escrow to pay refunds in the future, because the sum could be high. He guesses it could be $2 million a year for the town of Cornelius alone, significantly more for the county.
“It is our intent to do right by the property owners in this county,” he said.
Pearson’s also will present its findings at these Town Hall meetings, in each county commission district:
- District 2 – November 19 – First Baptist Church West
- District 3 – November 19 – Living Faith Baptist Church – 8600 Hood Rd.
- District 4 – November 15 – CMGC Room 280
- District 5 – November 13 – Marion Diehl Recreation Center
- District 6 – November 15 – Matthews Town Hall
On Nov. 20, at its regular meeting, the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners will receive the final written report from Pearson’s Appraisal Service, as well as recommendations from the County Manager on how to respond.
Click to view the Pearson’s Appraisal presentation on revaluation review (PDF). (This is the presentation to the county commission on Nov. 13. County officials said Wednesday they would post an updated version, with information specific to county commission District 1, but it had not been posted late Wednesday night.)
Nov. 13, 2012, “Review finds major flaws with 2011 Meck revaluation” – A detailed report by our news partner WFAE-FM from Tuesday’s county commission presentation by Pearson’s Appraisal.
See past coverage of the revaluation issue on CorneliusNews.net.
Mecklenburg County Assessor’s Office information on 2011 revaluation review, and meeting schedule