County commissioners approve first tax refunds – or bills – in 2011 reval review

dperlmutt@charlotteobserver.comNovember 12, 2013 

Thousands of Mecklenburg County property owners whose parcels were overvalued by the 2011 revaluation will soon be notified that they’re due a three-year refund after county commissioners approved the first batch on Tuesday.

Others with undervalued properties will get billed.

The refunds, or bills, will be for 2011, 2012 and 2013 and should be mailed by the end of the year. Mecklenburg residents will still be able to appeal those changes to their property values.

The board’s approval came a month into the review of all 356,000 Mecklenburg residential and commercial parcels that was mandated by a law passed by state legislators in July.

To date, Pearson’s Appraisal Service of Wilson has looked at more than 60,000 parcels, Fred Pearson of Pearson’s said after updating commissioners.

The county is paying Pearson’s $3.4 million to conduct the review that will also result in updated data on each parcel – after 17 years of the county ignoring data cards on each property.

In an interview, Pearson said that his appraisers have found as many overvalued parcels as undervalued – yet in some neighborhoods they’ve found all parcel values inflated, or all set too low because of additions or even new homes on the lot.

The appraisers, he stressed, started with neighborhoods with the most appeals to the values set by the 2011 revaluation – mostly along Lake Norman and in the Myers Park neighborhood.

How that will affect the county’s tax base, Pearson didn’t know. “We haven’t run those numbers yet,” he said. Mecklenburg officials have said the tax base could take a $50 million hit because of refunds.

Most parcel values didn’t change at all. But several changed by more than $100,000, up or down. For example, a house on Radcliffe Avenue was undervalued by $266,700, and another on Briarcliff Place – both in Myers Park – was set $193,000 too low.

Those numbers are more than offset by properties that were overvalued by more than $100,000, including two houses on Sherwood Avenue where the value of one was inflated by $174,800 and another by $144,600.

The problem stems from the outdated property data cards, Pearson said.

“In that time, a lot has happened to many properties,” he said. “Some have new additions, some are properties where there were tear-downs and new houses built. Some homes have a lot of physical wear and tear and they need depreciation.”

He said once his firm finished the project, “that data is going to be in a lot better shape.”

At present, Pearson’s is reviewing 7,000 to 8,000 parcels a week, ahead of its 6,000-parcel weekly goal. Theappraisers want to review 25,000 parcels a month, which would allow Pearson’s to complete the field work by the end of 2014.

Processing the data will lag about two months, he said.

Commissioners first hired Pearson’s in July 2012 after the revaluation triggered a flood of protests and appeals more than two years ago. The company found dozens of major and minor flaws, which led to the state legislation that requires the review to be done by neighborhoods.

Pearson’s began the current review on Oct. 1, and by the law, has 18 months to complete it.

Under commissioners’ approved timeline, the board will make recommended changes on property values the second Tuesday of each month. The county then will notify affected property owners of the board’s decisions about corrected values on or before the 20th of each month.

Perlmutt: 704-358-5061

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