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Originally published: 2013-10-04 10:34:18
Last modified: 2013-10-04 10:35:02

Tax revaluation nearly complete

by Kellen Short

The Watauga County Tax Office is approaching the end of its lengthy revaluation process, with only a few thousand properties left to review, Tax Administrator Larry Warren said Wednesday.


Only 2,500 to 3,000 of the county's roughly 48,000 parcels remain to be appraised, he said.


"We're winding down," he said.


Warren said the property values countywide are remaining fairly level with 2006, when the last revaluation occurred, although certain areas have gained or lost value at different rates.


"There are some areas that are going to be lower in value, primarily Beech Mountain and Blowing Rock," Warren said. "Other areas we've seen increase, such as Foscoe."


He added that new construction in the town of Boone plus increasing values will likely be in the town's and county's favor.


"I feel really optimistic as to how this is going to turn out," Warren said.


At the end of the year, the tax office will send valuation notices to property owners, along with instructions on how to appeal if they disagree with the assessment.


The Watauga County Board of Commissioners, which also serves as the Board of Equalization and Review, holds annual meetings to hear appeals on property values. In a revaluation year, the board can expect more appeals, but Warren said he hopes it won't be too many.


"We kind of forecast about 10 percent will appeal," he said.


The properties are appraised by three county appraisers and other contractors who visit each site, noting any new additions or improvements. Warren said his office sometimes gets concerns from residents who have purchased foreclosure properties and expect to be taxed on that low purchase price.


"Just because they got a good deal on it doesn't mean that's the value that we should be taxing them on," he said.


County commissioners will review the information next spring as they work on the budget and decide where to set tax rates. The county must publish its revenue neutral rate -- the rate that would bring in the same amount of revenue with the new values -- but isn't required to adopt it.


"Our goal is to prevent an increase, but if the property values were to decline, the county would really have no choice but to increase the tax rate to make it revenue neutral," Warren said, adding that spending cuts also could be used to balance the budget if property values declined overall.


But property owners can expect to receive bills based on the current tax rates starting Jan. 1, 2014.


The Tax Office recently published its schedule of values, the standards and guidelines that staff followed to arrive at the property values. The large book is now available for review by the public in the tax office, and commissioners will hold a public hearing Oct. 15 on the schedule.


The last revaluation went into effect Jan. 1, 2006. The county historically conducted revaluations every four years but has extended the cycle to eight years, the longest term permitted by law.