Polk appoints new equalization and review board

Published 10:00 pm Friday, April 7, 2017

Tax administrator and appraiser review revaluation process

COLUMBUS – Polk County has a new board of equalization and review (E&R) to hear appeals on the recent property revaluation.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday, April 3 and appointed Ray Brown, Charles Allen Pruitt, Paula Powell, Rickie McFalls and Keith Holbert as regular members and Kirk Bowden and John Brodie as alternates to the E&R board.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Powell was chosen as chair of the E&R board.

Commissioners and the public also heard a presentation from county tax administrator Melissa Bowlin and appraiser Brandon Highsmith regarding the process of the recent property revaluation. The county has heard concerns from residents whose property values increased significantly, particularly in the Green Creek Township of the county, over the past three meetings. Tax office employees met with residents prior to Monday’s meeting so residents could ask questions and sign up to appeal their values to the E&R board.

The E&R board met on April 7 for training and will begin hearing appeals next week.

A notice of appointment date and time will be mailed to applicants a week in advance. The board of E&R will adjourn from accepting new appeals on April 28. As long as a notice of appeal is received by April 28, the board of E&R will continue to meet until all appeals have been heard.

Following the decisions by the E&R board, if property owners are still not satisfied, they can appeal the E&R decision to the N.C. Property Tax Commission.

Bowlin said the county appreciates the feedback it has received from the taxpayers, as some information, such as deed restrictions and conservation easements, the tax department was not privy to.

Bowlin said because of some of the deed restrictions in some neighborhoods, the county has made some adjustments and the new notices of changes have not yet been sent out.

Highsmith said he has had the opportunity to speak with many property owners and the more information his office gets the better job they can do.

Highsmith said appraisers used resources to determine values, including the western North Carolina MLS, appraisals from fee appraisers, websites, Polk County appraisal files, site visits and from property owners.

Highsmith also reviewed average sale prices in Polk County and trends over the last decade. He said the average sale price in January 2007 was $276,706, in December 2008 it was $216,501, in January 2014 was $195,858, in January 2015 was $221,688 and in December 2016 was $221,879.

Trends included that in 2007 and 2008 sales demonstrated that during the last revaluation in 2009, the median sales price peaked and then declined rapidly.

The 2014 to 2016 sales demonstrated that during the current revaluation in 2017, the median is increasing and the sales information shows why approximately 65 percent of property values either remained the same or declined in value. Of the total county revaluation, 35 percent of properties increased in value.

Highsmith also listed some of the highest land sales that occurred in Green Creek, explaining that non-arm’s length transactions were not used in determining new rates. Prices ranged from $25,242 to $276,752 per acre in Green Creek. Other high sales were for $26,000, $27,000, $38,000, $115,000 and $143,000 per acre, according to Highsmith’s data. Arm’s length transactions are those in which the buyer and seller act independently and have no relationship to each other (either by blood, marriage, etc.)

“The sales noted are some of the highest sales in the Green Creek neighborhoods,” Highsmith said. “Some of these sales are not arm’s length transactions and non-arm’s length transactions were not used in determining land rates in the Green Creek neighborhoods. As clearly seen if these sales were being used, land rates would be much higher than the $17,000 and $10,000 per acre that is currently being assessed.”

The county has been taking informal appeals from residents since notices were mailed earlier this year.

Highsmith said Polk County currently has approximately 16,900 parcels and has recorded 1,196 informal appeals.

Highsmith said that means approximately 93 percent of property owners in the county think their property values are close to market value.

Highsmith said the county so far has responded to 66 percent of informal appeals received and approximately three percent of informal appeals have applied to the board of E&R for a formal appeal.