Residents share tax revaluation concerns with commissioners

Published 12:07 am Wednesday, March 22, 2023

SALISBURY — During the public comment portion of Monday’s Rowan County Board of Commissioners meeting, residents spoke about concerns with this year’s tax revaluation and the countywide 44.96 percent increase in real property values.

John Morrison, a Salisbury resident, thanked commissioners for their service, but he told them after he received his tax revaluation notice his property tax increased 60 percent, even though he has had no improvements made on his house. He also said he thinks the tax assessor may have him confused with someone else.

He pleaded with commissioners to consider the increase in property taxes when they are setting a new tax rate for the next fiscal year, something they have to decide and vote on no later than July 1.

“I would like to ask you to please consider, with the growth that we have in Rowan, to please try to stay as close to neutral revenue as you possibly can,” Morrison said. “If I had to pay the tax rate that it is now on the evaluation that I got, I would have to come up with $120 a month in order to pay my taxes. That’s a big pill to swallow.”

Morrison added he knows the commissioners will do a good job and that he trusts them.

Lisa Lennox also asked commissioners to reconsider the revaluation since the COVID-19 pandemic   “has been a driving force in raising these home prices astronomically.”

She also wondered if the market might be in a property bubble.

“We could be in a real estate tax bubble right now and what happens if our home prices decrease incredibly in the next year? We’re now stuck with four years of paying higher taxes,” Lennox said.

She brought up the current rate of inflation, which is 6.4 percent, that is affecting the entire country and the rise in grocery and fuel prices. She also questioned what her neighborhood receives from these tax increases.

“We have no public sewers, no public water, no streetlights, no garbage pickup, no sidewalks to maintain and poor road maintenance,” she said. “I realize there are plenty of other roads, buildings and salaries and schools that need money, but I don’t think you need this much money.”

In closing, Lennox asked the commissioners to postpone the revaluation “for one to two years to allow the world prices to rebalance and normalize.”

“The other thing I thought we could do is dramatically reduce the tax rates if we are going to pay thousands more in taxes during a time when we are already suffering financially. We are counting on you to help the people of Rowan County,” Lennox said.

Charles Isenhour said his family received a 128 percent increase in property taxes on his house that has had no improvements in eight to 10 years. His main concern was with how the county collects taxes, claiming he knows of multiple houses that have not paid property taxes for years, something he thinks is unfair for the rest of county residents.

Connie Byrne, who lives in Kannapolis,  didn’t share revaluation concerns  but said she knows the commissioners have nothing to do with the revaluation process and property values increasing.

“This is a direct result of the national real estate market,”
Byrne said. “Expenses for this county are increasing also. Yes we have an increasing tax base, but that’s not going to cover all the road work that needs to be done, new schools that needs to be built, the pay raises that our fire people and police officers and school teachers need. I think you’re doing a fantastic job and I thank you for that.”

When public comment ended, Commissioner Greg Edds, who is also the chairman of the board, took time to respond to the concerns shared by residents. He started by responding to Isenhour’s concerns of tax collection, saying the collection rate in the county is 97.88 percent. Edds said he wished it was 100 percent and the county is working to improve it. He also said he shares Isenhour’s frustrations with people who don’t pay their taxes.

Edds said the commissioners are bystanders when it comes to the revaluation process, but tried to explain why there was such an increase. He brought up the fact that an average home in Rowan County sold for $182,000 in 2019. The current price for an average home is $281,000. That’s an increase of 54 percent.

Other counties have also seen an increase in property taxes, Edds said, so it’s not something specific to Rowan: 25 percent of residents in Randolph County saw increases in property taxes of over 60 percent, Iredell County saw an average increase of 60 percent, Catawba County saw a 69 percent increase and Mecklenburg County saw a 51 percent increase.

“I just want us to make sure we’re understanding this is not just a Rowan County issue, it’s a regional, it’s a state, it’s probably a national issue,” Edds said.

Edds also agreed with Lennox that “we are in unprecedented times,” bringing up the rate of inflation, supply chain issues due to COVID-19, the cost of employment, the rise in grocery prices and construction costs.

The growth of the county and people wanting to live here also plays a part, Edds said.

“In 2014, when some of us first came into office, we had 240 residential permits issued. By 2022, that was a thousand issued in one year. In 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 a total of 1,614 permits were pulled. In 2019, 2021 and 2022 it was almost double that and through February of this year they’ve already pulled 273 permits, so that’s really having an impact,” Edds said.

He said there are going to be mistakes with the tax revaluation process and that is what the appeal process is for. Commissioners are currently working on setting the new tax rate and Edds said each commissioner expects it to be  decreased.