New tax assessments have some homeowners seeing significant increases

NHC tax evaluations cause alarm for many homeowners

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Every four years, New Hanover County does what is called a tax revaluation, and this year, for many across the county, values have gone up.

A revaluation means the county takes a look at property values and assures property owners are being taxed correctly, based on the value of their land and home.

“The importance of conducting a reappraisal is to establish equity and fairness among property types various property types can increase or decrease in value at varying rates causing the shift in the tax burden,” Tax Administrator Alison Snell said.

The county says that it goes through a meticulous process to ensure accurate property values, however, some taxpayers are questioning their methods.

“New Hanover County goes to great lengths to get a true and accurate value of each property in the county. New Hanover County tax appraisers visit residential and commercial properties in the county, photograph properties, educated citizens, take measurements, and evaluate improvements or deterioration to the property. The appraisers currently review and assess over 110,000 parcels and use proven methods for analyzing comparable properties and other factors affecting property value. Each property is appraised using the same method, applied uniformly across the county,” according to the county.

Snell also pointed out that the increases are not year-over-year, but for the past four years. Still, for Lori Sorenson, a homeowner in Wilmington, the timing of the valuation is bothersome.

“I think the timing is just rotten frankly, there are so many people suffering and don’t have – how do you expect them to pay their bills and put food on the table and power bill when people are struggling to do that,” she said.

Many people wonder why the county does not just go based on sale prices of the properties, but, it turns out there is more to it than just that.

“New Hanover County, as with all counties in North Carolina, determines property value through a process called mass appraisal. Mass appraisal is the process of valuing a group of properties as of a given date and using common data, standardized methods, and statistical testing to determine value. New Hanover County is therefore looking at the neighborhood market as a whole and sometimes some properties are low while others are high,” according to the tax department.

Oftentimes, it comes down to supply and demand.

When places like Wilmington and New Hanover County see the type of growth they have in the past several years, demand is high; because houses and buildable lots are finite commodities, supply is low.

Homeowners are able to appeal their property revaluations, but, it’s not an easy process since state law is on the side of the tax assessors.

“State law presumes that assessments are correct. This presumption places the burden on the Taxpayer to ‘produce competent, material and substantial evidence that tends to show: (1) either the county tax supervisor used an arbitrary method of valuation; or (2) the county tax assessor used an illegal method of valuation; and (3) the assessment substantially exceeded the true value in money of the property,’ according to the county.

You also must appeal within 30 days of receiving a new tax value, and the board that reviews appeals adjourns on May 11, 2021.

“To begin the appeal process, complete the appeal form online at tax.nhcgov.com/forms. If you are filling out a paper form that you have received from our office, you have the option to hand-deliver it or mail it back to our office,” according to the tax department’s website.

Now, the tax value of a piece of land is just one part of the puzzle, the second part is the tax rate, which is set by the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners. That won’t happen until the summer of this year when commissioners approve the county budget, so the actual impact of the revaluation is not yet known.

“At this time, the effect of revaluations on tax bills is unknown. There are three factors that determine how much tax each property owner must pay:

  • The assessed value of the property.
  • The cost of local government-provided services that the citizens of the county require.
  • The tax rate set by the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners and each municipality (City of Wilmington, Town of Carolina Beach, Town of Wrightsville Beach, and Town of Kure Beach) to meet the cost of services.

“The revaluation’s effect on your tax bill cannot be determined until operating budgets are adopted and the governing bodies have set tax rates for New Hanover County and the various municipalities. Budgets are adopted and tax rates are set prior to July 1 each year. Historic tax rates can be located here,” according to the county.

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