Polk petitions state for tax reform following revaluation

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, April 27, 2017

COLUMBUS – Polk County is making a statement to the entire state of North Carolina to get tax laws changed.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Tuesday, April 25 and approved a resolution calling for the General Assembly to complete a study of the property tax system and to provide relief to long-term property owners from being taxed out of their properties.

Polk is sending the resolution to all North Carolina legislators and Governor Roy Cooper, as well as all county commissioners in the state’s other 99 counties asking for their support.

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Polk’s push for law change comes after several packed meetings from residents, particularly in the Green Creek area, who saw up to 300 percent increases in their property values following the recent property revaluation. Polk County’s new revaluation was effective Jan. 1, 2017 with the Polk County Board of Equalization and Review recently convening to hear  appeals. The revaluation overall meant values for 65 percent of properties in Polk County stayed the same or decreased and 35 percent increased. Those increases, however, were large, with residents whose properties increased blaming the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) for the drastic increases.

The resolution states that dramatic increases in the value of real property concentrated within certain areas of a county creates a shifting of the tax burden among property owners.

“Such shifts in property values and tax burden apportionment can result in long-term property owners being taxed out of their properties,” states the resolution.

The resolution requests North Carolina General Legislature to undertake and complete a study of the property tax system and to make recommendations for a strategy to provide relief to long-term property owners from being taxed out of their properties.

Commissioners said they have listened to concerns and it’s been tough to hear people talk about their increases. Some residents have said they won’t be able to afford the new taxes and will be forced to sell their homes.

Polk County recently held a public information meeting with employees on hand to help explain programs they could enter if they qualify for exemptions and to help them sign up to appeal their values as well as answer questions and give other information about the revaluation.

North Carolina counties are required to do property revaluations to match fair market values every eight years. Polk decided prior to the current revaluation being complete that it would begin doing revaluations every four years to help minimize drastic differences in values.

The last property revaluation was effective Jan. 1, 2009.

Commissioner chair Tommy Melton said in introducing the resolution Tuesday that he’s been waiting all week to read it to residents.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson said he hopes Polk’s resolution creates interest across the state of North Carolina and state legislators will see here in North Carolina we are a state of essentially 85 rural counties and 15 urban counties.

“Here we are and we’re being impacted like this and I hope others will realize what an impact this has on property owners,” Gasperson said.

Gasperson said what he is hearing from people in the community is that it’s not homes on one acre that are being affected by the revaluation, but rather family farms that have been passed down for generations.

Gasperson also said he’d like to not only see the county email the resolution to state legislators and elected officials in the other 99 counties but would like to see it physically mailed. County clerk Ange High said she already has the resolution ready to mail as well as email.

“This is going to be a statewide effort if we’re going to go anywhere with this,” said Gasperson.

Each commissioner signed the resolution and the audience cheered and thanked commissioners for making the effort to get things changed.

Melton said it was tough sitting through the meetings hearing people speak of their increases.

“It was taxing,” Melton said.

Melton also thanked the tax department, saying he doesn’t think the public realizes how hard employees work and how tough it was on them.

Gasperson suggested the resolution be attached with a cover letter explaining what has happened in Polk County, including his name and cell phone number because he would be happy to talk with anyone about it.

Commissioner vice chair Jake Johnson said he’s been in touch with legislators about the issue so the county is not just sending the resolution blindly.

“There is a need across the state for something to be done,” Johnson said.

Johnson said it’s good that Polk’s resolution is not too specific to Polk because to get anything passed in the state it needs to be more resourceful than what Polk County alone needs.

Commissioners earlier this month agreed to ask legislators, specifically Rep. Cody Henson and Senator Ralph Hise, to come to a Polk meeting and hear residents’ concerns themselves.

Johnson said commissioners would love to have the legislators come here to talk. He added that the county has reached out to them but hasn’t yet coordinated anything solid for them to come.

Johnson also said he’d be more than happy to travel to Raleigh to tell Polk’s story to let the state know what’s going on here.

Commissioner Myron Yoder said it was hard to listen to residents’ frustrations about taxes.

“It’s also frustrating for us,” Yoder said. “We’re glad you hung in there. We’re not done with this but we’re making progress.”

Commissioner Shane Bradley thanked other commissioners for what they did Tuesday concerning pushing for tax reform.

“I hope what we did tonight snowballs and gets bigger and helps relieve some pain,” Bradley said. “Hopefully we’ve done some good.”

Polk’s resolution is not specific as to what exactly needs to be changed but some suggestions that have been made in past meetings include placing a cap like other states have on how much values can increase during one revaluation. Other suggestions were to grandfather properties and not make the new values effective until the property sells or there is a change of use at the property.

NEWS FOR ONLINE Resolution for property tax reform