by Eren Tataragasi

CHARLOTTE — County staff and commissioners said Tuesday, March 20, that while mistakes were made, the 2011 revaluation was fairly done and there would be no postponement of appeals.

County Manager Harry Jones presented a letter Tuesday night in response to a 13-page, March 6 letter from Cornelius residents outlining their issues with the revaluation, appeals process, and claims that the process violated state statute.

“The tax assessor’s office acknowledges that some errors and inaccuracies exist within the initial new assessments. Although great effort was made to avoid or minimize mistakes, the scale and scope of the appraisal resulted in some errors,” Jones read from his letter. “However, there are no facts to substantiate that there are numerous or widespread inaccuracies.”

Jones’ letter stressed no stigma adjustment was applied to properties, the county accepted all outside appraisals from property owners as long as it met certain requirements, some errors were made in land use codes and are being corrected, and all appeals have been handled according to information submitted.

Jones said county staff has acknowledged mistakes made and is working on fixing what they can.

“There are things we could’ve done better; we did make some errors,” said Cary Saul with the tax assessor’s office. “Yes, we lost paperwork. Sometimes when people called, they didn’t get the right answers. But we’re working on those issues. There are some changes we can make and we’ll be working on that.”

While there are some mistakes that can be remedied, some of the issues residents have are out of the county’s hands, like the postponement of appeals.

Commissioner Jim Pendergraph said before hearing from Jones, he’d had every intention of motioning to toss out the revaluations.

“But even if the board as a whole voted unanimously to stop this process and start over, there’s still no legal precedent to do that,” Pendergraph said, explaining any action would require legislative action from the General Assembly and that couldn’t be done in short session.

Jim Bensman, a Cornelius resident and former town commissioner, said he went into Tuesday’s meeting with little hope, but walked out a little more encouraged, despite the lack of action.

“I thought they’d blow us off and they didn’t,” Bensman said. “It’s a step in the right direction.”

Wile the county staff works to correct its mistakes, Bensman said he and his committee of Cornelius residents will continue to focus on this process and make sure the issues are resolved.

“They’re going to have to do something,” Bensman said, regarding the county and the state. “There’s a tidal wave of activity. The city of Charlotte, Huntersville and south Charlotte have written them, so it’s expanded outside of Cornelius, and unless they address this, it’s just going to get worse and worse and worse. I think it’s not generally accepted that it’s a mess and they’re struggling with how to fix it.

“I’m encouraged, but it’s not over. It’s probably the second inning of a nine-inning game and we’ll have to see where it goes. It’s on the front burner for an ever-broadening audience, which is what we need.”

Commissioner Karen Bentley, who represent north Mecklenburg, said she was pleased with how the meeting went, but that Tuesday was likely the last time the revaluation will come up on the commissioner’s agenda. She said the rest of the work will be done at the state level and with the county staff.

“I got the sense from Jim Bensman they’re not necessarily pleased with the county’s response, but it continues to be a process moving through the concerns with tax payers and I’m dedicated to seeing it all the way through,” Bentley said.

Bentley and representatives from all over North Carolina, including Cornelius resident Bensman, have become part of a statewide group to review the Machinery Act, which is the act legislating property revaluations, was codified in 1971.

“There’s a lot of opportunities to amend that,” Bentley said. “It will be done in long session, but we’re working now to accomplish that by 2014.”

Want to see more?

To watch the county commissioner meeting online at http://charmeck.org/mecklenburg/county/BOCC/Meetings/Pages/View.aspx.