Mecklenburg County officials have extended the deadline for residents to appeal their recently assessed property values due to a computer malfunction. But some officials are worried about the delay and vast number of number of appeals.
The county has moved the deadline to appeal from Thursday, March 10, to Monday, March 14, because a server glitch made the county’s Real Estate Lookup website unavailable most of Sunday, March 6. The site displays information about individual properties, including square footage and additions, like decks.
Before the county sent property values in February, officials in the tax assessor’s office directed people to use the Real Estate Lookup site to verify information about their property in case they appealed.
Since that site was unavailable, Tax Assessor Garrett Alexander moved the deadline to add four days.
But the delay complicates an already murky situation, Cornelius Commissioner Jim Bensman said. The town must set its ad valorem tax rate no later than June 30. If the town expects to institute a revenue-neutral tax rate, which would reduce the town’s tax rate to keep the total tax revenue the same as last year, then officials must have a good grasp of the town’s new assessed value.
“If you don’t know what your assessed value is, you can’t really set your tax rate,” Bensman said. “We are going to have to guess what the valuation is going to end up being and, as what happens with guess, we could either guess high or low.”
Preliminary information from the assessor’s office shows Cornelius’ value increasing by 6 1/2 percent, Bensman said.
But Bensman and his fellow commissioners can’t be completely sure of that increase until the assessor’s office sorts through thousands of appeals from property owners. During the last revaluation in 2003, the county’s board of equalization heard roughly 3,600 appeals. As of Monday, March 7, property owners have filed at least 17,400 appeals, and officials expect that number to swell to more than 40,000. The county has yet to distribute commercial tax values.
“They have 90 days to do that. And even if you spent only 15 minutes on an appeal, it works to over 100 weeks of effort to deal with it. My concern is that we are going to get to June and not know enough to be able to set a tax rate,” Bensman said.
Officials in the assessors’ office did not return messages seeking comment before The Herald Weekly’s deadline.
If the town must set its tax rate without knowing the revaluation’s full impact, commissioners could make a minor adjustment to that rate, which is allowed under N.C. law, Cornelius town attorney Bill Brown told commissioners at their Monday, March 7, meeting.
Or, as Cornelius Mayor Jeff Tarte put it, to predict the valuation, the town could hire “expert Ouija board operators.”