Mar 152011

By Kim Rogers,
Union County Commissioner

Ronald Reagan said “Governments don’t reduce deficits by raising taxes on the people; governments reduce deficits by controlling spending and stimulating new wealth.” Make no mistake about it, not performing the revaluation is a TAX INCREASE on many citizens in Union County.

One of the worst things an elected official can do is misinform the public, the other is to mislead, whether deliberately or ignorantly. It’s disappointing to walk into a meeting knowing that a decision has already been made, a press release typed and ready for submittal, all prior to any discussion in open meeting of the Board of County Commissioners (reference Simpson article in the 3/9/11 EJ, wherein he says “Monday night I made a rough decision, not in haste, rather with sound facts and a decision, I believe,…”). How is it open government if you can reach such a decision before any open communication, consideration of opposing viewpoints, and discussion occurred? What is the point of the meetings then? Why, was it stated back in January when Commissioner Kuehler tried to add an item to the agenda to discuss the possibility of revaluation and hold public town hall meetings to obtain feedback from the very citizens we serve, that the revaluation was moving forward? Why in subsequent discussions was the public led to believe the revaluation would occur? Why did the majority place it on the agenda 6 days after the deadline of March 1st? A moving target, hidden within the trees, is very difficult to hit.

As to the insinuation that the passing of the revaluation in the fall of 2010 was somehow politically motivated, I’ll restate what I said in Monday’s meeting. As early as the beginning of 2009 (the start of my term), I had several conversations with our tax assessor about the property values, the amount of property appeals, and the need to continue with a 4-year revaluation cycle as we have done for the past decade. I have copies of actual e:mails from early 2010, discussing when the board needed to submit the resolution to the state, and was told by the manager and staff that we should do it in the fall of 2010.

So, now on to the facts about the revaluation and reappraisal process. North Carolina General Statute (105-286) requires all 100 Counties to conduct a general reappraisal. The purpose of a reappraisal is to assess all real property at its true value (market value) in money, so that equity is preserved and property owners pay only their fair share of the tax. The law says that property taxes should be based on the market value of the property in question. Revals are necessary to adjust the values to the current fair market value. Union county did it in 2000, 2004, 2008, and without question should do it in 2012.
The County Assessor’s Office or the Commissioners do not “create” the value of your property. People define values by their transactions in the marketplace. The Assessor’s Office simply has the legal responsibility to study those transactions and appraise your property accordingly. It is inappropriate for commissioners to make their decisions concerning property revaluation based on what will happen to the tax rate or the level of revenue collected. The law clearly states that the primary goal of reappraisal is uniformity and fairness. The purpose of a reappraisal is NOT to increase revenues or to provide tax breaks, but to fairly, equally and uniformly appraise the real property at its true value in money.
Over half of the 100 counties in North Carolina are scheduled to perform revaluations on a less than 8-year cycle. Neither Indian Trail, nor Monroe officials represent the citizens of Union County at-large, that’s why the Commissioners aren’t elected by district, but by at-large elections. They are supposed to represent all citizens, not just special groups of citizens or certain municipalities.
The state will end up having to step in and force a revaluation before the end of the 8-year cycle because Union County is already so close to the inequity triggers that would initiate a revaluation. We are going back to the time when our local commissioners are not making the right decisions and the state has to step in and do what is right, just like they did with the sewer moratorium during the years of uncontrolled growth.
As was so accurately stated by The Enquirer Journal and is worth repeating, “Commissioners will discuss revaluation when they meet…and resolution will be a test for our new majority. Are they leaders for the whole county? Or are they willing to sacrifice principles and fairness to all to serve the parochial interests of their political supporters? Their vote on this simple question will reveal their true values and whose interests they really serve.” Well, the final vote was 3-2 to rescind the revaluation and the statements made by the 3 voting to cancel the revaluation all had to do with knowingly taxing people on a higher market value. There is no justification to make that right and there is law that shows that it was wrong. This was a case of “preference” over “principle”. Based on Simpson’s quote of President Theodore Roosevelt, the majority of three didn’t do the best thing by doing what was right, but did the next best thing by doing what was wrong.

To force a man to pay for the violation of his own liberty is indeed an addition of insult to injury. ~Benjamin Tucker, Instead of a Book