Pender County Tax Assessor Justian Pound acknowledged that residents in the coastal region of the county are facing higher increases in their property tax compared to the last county-wide assessment in 2011.
PENDER COUNTY — Residents have just over a month to appeal property revaluations issued by the county during a state-mandated property tax assessment that happens every eight years.
“Time is of the essence; you need to start your case,” Surf City resident Dwight Torres said.
According to Pender County Tax Assessor Justian Pound, the average taxable value across the county increased by almost 12 percent from 2018 to 2019. But the 2018 values were based on the county’s last revaluation performed in 2011, accounting for approximately 1.5 percent growth per year. Pound said this was actually slightly lower than the roughly 2-percent annual growth experienced by the regional housing market.
Nationally, home prices have increased by 50 percent since 2012, according to National Public Radio — what some economists call the “third housing boom in America.”
County staff and commissioners are currently reviewing the upcoming 2019-2020 budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The final budget, including the countywide property tax rate, will be presented to commissioners on June 3. Since 2015, the county’s tax rate has remained at 68.5 cents per $100 of assessed value.
Under the current tax rate, residents in a home valued at $200,000 would owe $1,370. Pound urged residents to consider that the value they saw on their 2018 tax bills is actually the county’s opinion of what that property would bring as of January 2011.
“It’s 2011 dollars,” Pound said. “Because the way North Carolina works: for every revaluation, you create a market snapshot, and that’s what you pay taxes on every year until you create another snapshot on your next revaluation cycle.”
Topsail-area residents complain of skyrocketing values
Members of a Facebook group called Topsail Area Alerts and News Share, which has more than 23,000 members, told their own accounts of large spikes in their property reappraisals on a post in mid-May.
One member said she lives in a townhouse on Topsail Island in Surf City; she said her assessed value increased by 74 percent. Another said his .05-acre property, located on marshland, went from $2,500 to $187,500.
Torres, who said he is running for a town council seat this fall, also commented on the post. Three years ago, Torres paid $399,000 for a home in the Nautic Bay development — one of the last undeveloped parcels of land on Topsail Island before it was developed — and said it was revalued by the county at $435,000, only a 9 percent increase.
“We were number four out of the 30 homes going into this particular cul-de-sac,” Torres said. “They were selling faster than they could build them, so I wasn’t surprised because the price point has gone up a good bit.”
He thought the reassessed value on his property was fair but understood this came from a perspective as a recent homebuyer. For those who have no intention of selling in the foreseeable future, he said a big spike in value only hurts them because of increased taxes.
Torres said people he has discussed the issue with were frustrated that the May 30 deadline to appeal a revaluation will come before the county’s announcement of its 2019-2020 tax rate.
“The folks I talked to, their frustration is: ‘You tell me what the assessed value is now, but what does that mean in terms of money? What is going to be the big difference?’ That’s the part that’s missing, and that’s done later,” Torres said.
But Pound said the county’s tax assessment office acts independently of county commissioners, who determine the property tax rate that will be applied to the adjusted property values. The role of his office is to establish the “county’s opinion of market values,” according to Pound.
“If you’re looking at your tax bill, the first thing you’re concerned about is how much you have to cut out of your account to pay for this,” Pound said. “But for the [revaluation] notices portion, it’s just about the value. What the commissioners decide to implement for rates is a separate entity, because we don’t set the values based on the actual amount of taxes it will generate.”
High growth on the coast since 2011
Pounds said that residents in the fast-growing coastal portion of the county have seen higher reassessments than residents of rural properties in the west, particularly farmland, which is historically more stable than suburban areas.
But in places like Hampstead, where new developments have altered the landscape since the 2011 revaluation, homes are especially vulnerable to increasing land value.
“Say you had a home in mid-Hampstead where there were no subdivisions around,” Pound said. “Well, in eight years you had a bunch of subdivisions pop up and now homes and land value in that area have increased, thereby pushing your value up greater than, say, a neighbor in Surf City who already had development. And now you’re just catching up to a market value change.”
To facilitate the bulk of the appeals sent to his office and set up necessary appointments, Pound said residents were asked to send in necessary documents by May 30. All appeals face a real deadline of June 28, when the Board of Equalization and Review adjourns, according to Pound.
For more information regarding property reevaluation, call the Pender County Tax Assessor office at 910-259-1221.
Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com