By Hugh Fisher
CONCORD — Next year’s property revaluation in Cabarrus County has some local residents worried.
They fear their new property tax values won’t reflect what they say the recession has done to home prices.
Monday night, the Cabarrus Board of Commissioners officially received a report with the revaluation schedule, a manual of how property tax values are to be determined.
But before that presentation was even made, before a planned public hearing, residents were eager to speak their minds.
Marilyn and Thomas Barnhardt spoke during the time for general public comments at the start of the session.
Marilyn said their decades-old mobile home has been overvalued for years.
The Barnhardts live on Wabash Lane in Kannapolis, although they have a Concord mailing address.
According Cabarrus County’s online database of tax records, the Barnhardts’ doublewide mobile home on a 0.7-acre lot is valued at $124,970.
“I don’t have any water, I don’t have any sewer,” Marilyn said.
Later in the meeting, J. Brent Weisner, the county’s tax administrator, agreed that property in Farm Hill was valued highly because of speculation that investors would buy out the land.
Just yards away from the Barnhardts’ home, across Kannapolis Parkway, is the Afton Ridge shopping center, which features Target and Best Buy among other stores.
But Marilyn Barnhardt said a plan among Farm Hill homeowners to sell the neighborhood to developers as a unit had fallen apart in 2008.
“We were never sold as commercial, we probably never will be sold as commercial,” she said.
She called the value of their property “disgraceful.”
“There’s no way you can sell this property for $124,000,” she said.
Jason Oesterreich questioned the numbers the county had used.
He claims the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index, home price figures used by the federal government, show that Cabarrus’ home values went down over 15 percent from 2008 to the present.
Oesterreich claims that Cabarrus’ valuation methods will only result in a 1.4 percent decrease in property tax values.
“You would think that, knowing property values have gone down, the budget would go down correspondingly,” Oesterreich said.
“In essence, what you have was a hidden tax increase,” he said.
While Weisner did not dispute Oesterreich’s claims directly, “We don’t establish base rates that way,” he said. “We look at actual facts within Cabarrus County.”
The value of land is considered separately from the value of buildings on it.
Neighborhoods which are being replaced by commercial development can be valued higher, as with the homes in Farm Hill, he said.
And, Weisner said, while foreclosures aren’t supposed to be considered in valuing neighborhoods, “you can’t ignore the fact that they’re there,” and can depress home prices.
He suggested residents should contact the Assessor’s Office to discuss any concerns they might have.
Weisner said the county’s base rate is based on what it would cost to build an average two-bedroom, three-bath home.
Appraisers then adjust the value based on improvements, market values, and other factors.
Commissioner Bob Carruth said he had visited Weisner’s office and spoken with the county’s assessors.
With them, he discussed the values of individual homes, which he said involved in-depth research, even pulling real estate listings from prior sales.
“What I saw was many layers of control, many layers of review that take place,” Carruth said.
Marilyn Barnhardt and Oesterreich returned to the microphone during the official public hearing on the valuation schedule.
Barnhardt once more expressed her concern that values should be more realistic.
And Oesterreich said it was “shocking” that the county’s guidance on how to set tax values was still much higher than markets seem to indicate.
Residents will have two further opportunities to hear commissioners debate the proposed valuation procedures.
The matter will be discussed at the commissioners’ work session on Oct. 3.
It’s slated to come up for a vote at the Oct. 17 business meeting.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.
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