Property revaluation groundwork begins
Last modified: Dec. 20
Despite completing a countywide property valuation in 2011, Ashe County Tax Administrator Keith Little is beginning to lay the groundwork for the county's next assessment in 2015.
"We want to try and keep the board informed as far as our next scheduled re-assessment goes," said Little, who gave commissioners a presentation outlining the revaluation process during Monday afternoon's Ashe County BOC meeting.
State law requires counties to revalue property at least once every eight years, though counties have the option to schedule revaluations on a more frequent timeframe.
In valuing property at close to market value, the revaluation process is designed to ensure the tax burden is equitably distributed across all county property owners.
In past years, Ashe County revaluations were set at the state mandated eight-year cycle, with recent revaluations occurring in 1990, 1998 and 2006.
In each case, the revaluation was completed by a third-party contractor, according to Little, who said the 2006 revaluation was completed at a cost of approximately $500,000.
Little said the eight-year gap between reassessments, and the increasing value of county land, usually meant a large increase in the overall countywide value of each assessment.
"Because we were on that eight-year cycle, we would typically see large increases in overall assessments and in individual property assessments," said Little. "In 1998, we had about a 50 percent increase in our tax base. From 1998 to 2006, we basically doubled our values with a 100 percent increase."
Little cautioned commissioners that those percentage increases indicate the entire county tax base, and not necessarily individual property.
"Because of the increases, we began to talk about advancing that schedule and performing the reassessment more frequently," said Little, who said commissioners approved a measure in 2008 to schedule future revaluations on a four-year cycle, beginning in 2011.
"The board also agreed we'd do (the revaluation) as an in-house process," said Little. He said the 2011 revaluation was completed, for the most part, with only county personnel — although Little said outside appraisers were used for approximately two months.
"Hopefully we won't even have to do that this next time," said Little, who said the overall tax base increased just eight percent in a declining housing market.
By 2011, Little said, the local real estate market had changed dramatically from the 2006 revaluation.
"For us, it was during 2008 when we saw that (decline in value) take place," said Little. "Our market was going down at the time we did the (2011) reassessment, though we were still a little ahead of what we'd done in 2006."
Despite the difficult conditions, Little said he felt the 2011 revaluation was a success despite difficult conditions that forced other counties across the state to postpone their own scheduled revaluations.
"I'm glad we did do our reassessment then, and I think we're ahead of the game now because we went ahead (with the revaluation) in 2011," said Little.
Little also briefed commissioners on current sales ratio study statistics for Ashe County that indicate how close property tax assessments matched actual sales prices throughout the county in a given year.
A ratio close to 100 percent indicates a tax base that is relatively unchanged from the last assessment.
The analysis is required by the North Carolina Department of Revenue and is another metric designed to gauge, "fairness and accuracy amongst all taxpayers," according to the DOR's website.
"The assessment level, among other things, can give us an idea how much of an increase or decrease in the overall tax base that we'll see with another reassessment," said Little. "In other words, if we're at a 50 percent assessment level, we're probably going to see about a 100 percent tax base increase. If we're at an 80 percent assessment level, we're probably going to see about a 25 percent increase in the overall tax base."
Currently, Ashe County's assessment level is near 101 percent, according to Little.
"The closer we are to 100 percent indicates that we're probably not going to see a whole lot of change," said Little, "which is about what you'd expect the year following a revaluation."
The Monday afternoon presentation required no action by commissioners, though Little said the board does have the authority to postpone the next revaluation, scheduled to begin in 2015.
"I know you all took a lot of heat for that last revaluation, and you do have the ability to postpone the next one, since we'll be within the state mandated eight year window," said Little, who said he'd need to be notified by January of 2014 if commissioners reach a decision to postpone the 2015 revaluation.