Bewilderment over Caldwell County revaluation remains

May. 26, 2013 @ 08:26 AM

When Eddie and Stephanie Bowman received a letter earlier this year saying their property value jumped nearly 16 percent because of a countywide property revaluation, Stephanie Bowman "hit the roof," and they immediately called the county tax office for an explanation, Eddie Bowman said.

Officials eventually agreed to lower the assessed value of their Sawmills School Road home by $5,800 to $84,700, but that was still about an 8 percent increase from its previous assessed value of $78,200.

Complaints like the Bowmans' are not unusual after a countywide property revaluation, when the tax office adjusts the assessment on each property, especially when it has been eight years since the last one, as is the case in Caldwell County.

“I’m just confused,” said Becky McRary, who owns two properties in Sawmills, including a less-than-one-acre undeveloped lot that she said had a "tremendous" increase in its assessed value.

McRary filed one of the 3,700 appeals that county tax officials received. That number is significantly down from the some 4,800 appeals filed after the previous revaluation, in 2005.

This revaluation resulted in a countywide average 5 percent increase on real estate. Values are influenced by a range of factors, from a property's size and location to even the number of trees on the premises.

But Eddie Bowman, a retired part-time real estate broker, said he remains somewhat bewildered by what he insists is a disparity in the value between certain properties whose deeds he has scrutinized over the past three months, and he took his argument to the Caldwell County Board of Commissioners on Monday night.

Citing a cluster of properties where the values vary by tens of thousands of dollars, he told the commissioners, “When you see these types of increases, that tells you there’s a problem.”

But county officials says the assessments reflect the market.

“Markets change,” county tax administrator Monty Woods said in an interview, citing increases and decreases of up to 30 percent among various properties across the county. And “we don’t have the option of changing the value every six months or a year,” unlike larger counties including Mecklenburg and Wake, which may update appraisals every year.

Such fluctuations are seen everywhere, Woods reiterated, though he acknowledged changes to property values within close proximity usually are comparable.

“Your land should be similar to your neighbor’s land,” he said.

Bowman noted that the assessed value of his sister’s property, which he can see from his home, increased by about 33 percent, from $101,400 to $134,000, while a property about a quarter of a mile away decreased by $100.

That “makes me wonder,” he said, thumbing through a stack of property records showing readjustments of thousands of dollars, which he said were “too common.”

Bowman said the commissioners should consider reducing the length of time between appraisals.

“If you’re waiting eight years and you hit people with a 15, 25, 35 percent increase, that’s gonna’ hurt,” he said.