Cover Story: Tax-Value Appeal Hearings

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Thousands upset over the new tax values assigned to their property in Mecklenburg County.  On Tuesday, their chance to fight back began.

Mecklenburg County property owners upset over this year's tax revaluations are going before a citizen appeal panel this week.

The county reassessed property earlier this year.

It was the first time since 2003.  And that brought a flood of appeals from those whose property spiked.  A higher value means higher taxes.

What can a homeowner do if they feel the county got it wrong?

It's the hallway they walk in hopes of getting their day in court.  But inside this room is not a judge but a group of everyday people who value property.

"Any discussion? All in favor aye."

This is the Mecklenburg Board of Equalization and Review.

A three-member panel of everyday citizens, but who have experience in real estate.  They are appointed by the county commission and tasked with hearing thousands of cases involving homeowners who feel their property reassessment is too high.

"We want to get it right. We just don't gloss over anything."

42,000 homeowners and businesses appealed the revaluation that was done earlier this year.  That's 11.5 percent of the 355,000 parcels of property in Mecklenburg county, a higher percentage than normal.

A vast majority of those have been and will be settled in an informal review process handled by staff in the County Assessor's Office.

But in those cases where homeowners feel the tax value of their property is still too high, they go before this board.

And on Tuesday pouring over maps and going over data, the board began working on the 2011 revaluation.

Jim Barnett is the chairman of the Board of Equalization and Review.

"If they don't bring data and as you saw when you were here.. even if they didn't have data we tried to make sure that we got it right. We really really want to get the values right," Barnett told us.

This go-around of reassessment has been particularly challenging.

One Charlotte neighborhood had 75-percent of its homes go into foreclosure.  While at one point some neighborhoods saw their property values rise nearly 400 percent since the last time the county calculated home values eight years ago.

It is leading to more appeals.  In some cases it's a minor correction.

Garrett Alexander is Mecklenburg County's Assessor.

"If we discovered was for instance that a deck there wasn't a deck on the house.. we took that off. We showed them what the corrected value would be. That's what we recommended and that's what they affirmed today," said Alexander.

Of the tens of thousands of homeowners who've appealed 7,000 more will hear from the assessor's office this week.  A final batch will be notified by the end of September whether their revaluation challenges were successful.

"If you haven't heard anything.. chances are we're still trying to decide what our new value opinion will be if we change it," said Chuck Hicks in the Assessor's Office.

The group heard 20 cases on Tuesday.  Not all the property owners showed up.  In three of the cases the property value was reduced.

3,600 homeowners and businesses have appealed to the "Board of Equalization and Review."

Since the Assessor's Office is still going through all the tens of thousands of appeals it's expected the Board will hear altogether about 8,000 formal appeals.

They hope to finish up by the end of the year.

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