Tax bills cause stir

Published 9:18 am Tuesday, April 28, 2009

GATESVILLE – Two times two equals four…under normal circumstances.

That simple math formula goes out the window when it comes to combining a newly assessed property value with what will soon be a new property tax rate. Both those items are linked to this being a revaluation year in Gates County.

Gates County property owners may be up in arms now, thanks to receiving their 2009 tax bills last week, but County Manager Toby Chappell said there is no need for panic.

“Tax bills are based on two different things,” said Chappell, whose office has been besieged with phone calls since the April 17 mailings of the newly assessed property values in Gates County. “One is the actual value of that property. The other is the tax rate. If the value goes up, the rate goes down.”

Chappell said he has heard from numerous county citizens in regards to their property values doubling, or in some cases tripling.

“The rate will go down, I guarantee that,” Chappell said, confirming the current tax rate of 97.5 cents (per $100 of value). “What that rate will be is the decision of the county commissioners, but the biggest concern right now is that people are saying that because their value has doubled, that must mean the payment will double. That’s absolutely not true.”

Chappell is currently in the process of writing the county’s 2009-10 budget, but is doing so without a set tax rate.

“The budget I’m writing is as close to revenue neutral as humanly possible,” he noted. “That means the pot of money we receive from property tax is the same as the last budget year.”

Even with that fact, it doesn’t mean the county’s property owners will write the identical check for taxes as they did a year ago.

“Taxes will increase for some, but others may see their taxes decrease or stay about the same,” he stressed. “Those paying lower taxes will be the ones who qualify for exemptions.”

While on that subject, Chappell said exemptions cover age, income level and land use.

“We can’t pursue this for you,” he said. “If you think you may qualify for an exemption, come in and talk to our tax administrator (Renee McGinnis). She will go over each case individually to see if the eligibility requirements are in place.”

Chappell said he also wanted county citizens to understand that revaluation occurs by statutory process.

“This is not a periodic process just because we want to…the state says we must do this at a minimum of every eight years,” he noted.

Revaluation began in the fall of last year. The county employed the use of an independent appraiser – Pearson & Associates. They visited each property in Gates County and based their appraisals on comparable real estate sales in the area.

That appraisal isn’t hammered in stone as Chappell said there are appeal processes county citizens can take if they feel their property is over-valued.

“If people have questions, concerns or grievances, there is a process in place to let their voices be heard,” Chappell said. “If you feel there is a mistake, bring it to the appraiser’s attention.”

Those wanting to discuss their property values with the appraiser can make an appointment by calling 357-1247.

The appeal process is actually three-fold. If a property owner is still not satisfied after meeting with the appraiser, they can schedule an appointment to be heard in front of the Gates County Board of Equalization and Review (the county commissioners serve in that capacity). Those dates are pending to start May.

After meeting with the E&R Board and still not satisfied with the appraised value, a property owner can legally challenge the issue through the court system.

“The vast majority of these concerns will be handled with the informal hearing with the appraiser…the rest with the Board of E&R, but there is a process beyond that if needed,” Chappell said.

While addressing revaluation, Chappell was asked if he was aware of a petition circulating in the county, one calling for the firing of McGinnis.

“To single out one county employee is inappropriate, especially in light of the fact that revaluation is being conducted by an independent, non-governmental entity,” he concluded.