Frustration mounts over TIEC’s impact on property tax values

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, April 6, 2017

Polk invites legislators to hear residents’ concerns over revaluation

COLUMBUS – After holding a public information meeting and signing up residents for appeals, Polk County has also asked state legislators to come and hear residents’ concerns over the 2017 property revaluation.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday, April 3 and heard concerns for the third meeting in a row over the recent property revaluation. This was the first meeting, however, that residents showed their appreciation for what the county is doing to help, particularly with property owners who have seen their values increase significantly in the Green Creek area, some say as much as 300 percent.

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The county held a two-hour public information meeting prior to the regular meeting Monday, where employees were on hand to answer individual questions, give out information and sign residents up to appeal their new property values.

During the regular meeting, commissioners listened to concerns during citizen comment time for approximately an hour, and tax administrator Melissa Bowlin and tax assessor Brandon Highsmith gave a presentation on the process of the revaluation.

County manager Marche Pittman then told the public he sent an email to Senator Ralph Hise and Rep. Cody Henson, inviting them to come to a county meeting and hear from residents themselves in hopes of changing some state laws.

During citizen comments, David Doubek said Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) is a magnificent facility and is good for the group who started it and hopefully good for the whole county. He said people were concerned of TIEC’s impact on their taxes, including him. Doubek said he believes there was a misunderstanding early on, mentioning a meeting with TIEC representatives at a local church, where there was an indication that there would be no impact other than on nearby properties.

Doubek said when the letters in the mail came regarding the new values, “it was like whamo, getting hit in the head with a sledgehammer.”

Doubek said he is ¾ of a mile from TIEC and his property value quadrupled. He said he would like to request seeing some properties that were sold to determine the new values and that he’s still struggling with it.

Mary Dill said residents have suggested different ideas and the county’s response continues to be that their hands are tied.

“If you can’t do anything about it, advocate for us at the state level,” Dill said. “Surely gentlemen, you cannot rest well.”

Dill said her property value increased 231 percent from last year’s value.

“We know that you tried but we need you to go the extra mile to change the tax laws at the state level,” Dill said.

Roger Gossenreiter said his neighbor lives a mile closer to the equestrian center than he does, pays half of what he is paying, and he has a problem with that. Gossenreiter said the county needs to sharpen the pencil drawing the circle.

Michael Devere echoed others’ comments about putting a cap on the increase. Some have suggested the county increase properties by the cost of living and not make the new, increased values effective until the property sells or changes use.

At this point, per state law, the county is not able to do that, according to county officials.

Devere suggested the county be specific on whether it can grandfather properties so that the new values only be charged when a property sells, not if it changes ownership.

“I’d like to leave my property to my family,” said Devere. “It doesn’t help people with five generations who’ve owned that property.”

Devere also said he too was in favor of the equestrian center and there were a lot of promises made. He said he was told there wouldn’t be any tax increases and he was told there would be a lot of good paying jobs.

“Have they delivered on their promises?” Devere asked.

Devere said now he wakes up to an announcer, he sees where manure piles developed, and there are now two search lights lighting up the American flag. He also said he never got to see a traffic plan, and so far, there has been widening of Sandy Plains Road and TIEC wants two more entrances to the facility.

Grey Lancaster said 50 years ago Moore Road was a dirt road, U.S. 74 didn’t exist, and now it’s going to cost him $1,000 more a month to live there. He said a 367 percent increase on his property is too much. Lancaster said TIEC gets crowds on Saturday nights, but he thinks if you put a dirt track over there the county would get crowds as well.

Debbie Rogers said she has asked a lot of questions and feels like the county has listened to residents and that means a lot to her.

“We were basically told your values were going up because of the equestrian center,” Rogers said. “I do appreciate everybody double checking the rules. I hope you continue to push for everything for all the citizens of Polk County.”

Rogers also said she would like an explanation of the tax neighborhoods because it seemed “gerrymandered.”

Rich Day said he has lived in Green Creek for 25 years and accruing the taxes that are due until the property is sold makes sense to him. He said the money is going to get paid and yes the rates can go up, but at a reasonable rate.

“I don’t think three times is reasonable,” said Day.

Lisa Kotalik moved here 11 years ago from Wellington, Fla. because her taxes there reached $8,000.

“I had to go somewhere else. And I was up here fat, dumb and happy and here they come,” Kotalik said. “And it’s the same zoo all over again. They had issues with their manure piles and once again they’re going to have issues again, and that’s why (Mark) Bellisimo took his whole crew and came here.”

Kotalik said as far as TIEC being open part-time, that was not so. She said they are planning on keeping it open year round, adding polo, and doing everything they can to move things here from Florida. Because of the traffic congestion and all the other issues they had in Florida, Kotalik said, people there were happy to see them leave and come here.

“So, I’ve been waiting and watching to see what’s going to happen to our community,” Kotalik said. “It’s just really sad. I can understand the taxes going up, sure. You know, we need to have a little bit of a raise, but 300 percent? Really? Come on.”

Kotalik said it is worrisome to her because she saw what happened in Florida and it’s happening all over again.

“All the lies,” she said. “Oh, your taxes won’t go up. That’s not true. And there are other things that are going to happen as well, and, I guess I’ll have to move from here, too.”

Ira Karet said the real benefit from TIEC was for the county to get additional jobs and also that the horse center is going to make a lot of money. He asked why people here should have to pay for it. Karet said every time TIEC wants rezoning or to put a road in, the county should charge them for the taxes it won’t get from the residents. Karet also asked whether the assessors adjusted for traffic, sound and lights during their revaluation.

“Are you compensating those people for taking the value out of their property?” Karet asked, mentioning a man who used to have a view of mountains but now has to look at homes.

Karet also suggested the county only raise the values when the property sells or has a change of use. He said there are a lot of old folks here that can’t afford those taxes and they can’t afford to move either.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson said he hopes people realize that Polk County has not at any time given any tax breaks or funding to TIEC and the county has not been giving them everything they want.

Pittman said he spoke to the N.C. Institute of Government about this issue and was told this is not just a Polk County problem, and that it is happening in other parts of the state regarding increases in property values.

Polk County’s recent revaluation, which is required by the state at least every eight years, saw 65 percent of the county’s properties stay the same or decrease in value and 35 percent of properties increase in value. The majority of the increases were substantial and occurred in the Green Creek Township, particularly near TIEC.

Gasperson also said he had a citizen in Green Creek ask him what the county is going to do with all that extra money. Gasperson said the county is not seeing more taxes over the whole county and commissioners are looking to keep the budget as close to revenue neutral as possible. He also said the county was planning on a two-cent increase next year and another two cents later for additional personnel for the new jail.

“We’re hoping to push those numbers down as much as we can,” said Gasperson. “In terms of taxable base in this county we’re not seeing an increase in the county as a whole.”

Pittman said revenue neutral means no increase as far as tax dollars that will come into the county.

“It doesn’t mean we’ll get additional revenue,” said Pittman.

Following is the letter Pittman sent to Senator Ralph Hise and Rep. Cody Henson on March 21:


I hope you are both well and thank you for your service to the citizens of our state! 

I wanted to relay some information to you that we received at a Board of Commissioner’s meeting last night. We are in the middle of a re-evaluation of property tax values right now. There is an area of Polk County (Green Creek near TIEC) that has been significantly impacted by an increase in real property values due to recent increased land sales in that community. We had numerous people show up at our meeting last night, expressing their dis-satisfaction with the re-valuation process and the fact that their values increased so much in eight years.

We did make them aware of the process, including literature from the NC School of Government. We also made them aware of most of the property tax relief programs, that they could take advantage of, if they qualified. We also made them aware of our intent to transition to a four year re-valuation cycle, thus minimizing the extreme ups and downs in valuation over extended periods of time.

Some of the people wanted to know if each of you would be willing to talk about the impact that the current state laws on property taxation are having on them. I wanted to pass this request along to each of you. We will be glad to host the event, if you can make it. Please let me know if this is something you would consider.

Thanks again!

Marche Pittman, MSMIIT, ICMA-CM

County Manager

See the weekend edition of the Bulletin for details on how county employees explained the process of the revaluation, who was appointed to the county board of equalization and review, and when that board will meet.