By Jesse Wood
Feb. 28, 2013. Watauga County’s Tax Appraisal Department is bustling these days as the tax revaluation process is underway.
On Thursday, Watauga County Tax Administrator Larry Warren said that “just over 4,400” land parcels have been appraised since the first of February.
He added that those have been rural residential properties on the outskirts of the county, and the values appraised so far are “stable” compared to figures in 2006, the last time the county conducted its tax revaluation.
“Now, we do expect once [our appraisers] get into areas like Beech Mountain and Blowing Rock, they’ll be adjustments probably necessary there for values, but I don’t have any hard evidence for that,” Warren said.
So far, the 4,400 or so parcels evaluated as of the end of February represent roughly 10 percent of the estimated number of land parcels in the county. According to a memo from Warren to County Manager Deron Geouque, Watauga County has an estimated 48,500 parcels to be evaluated.
“This equates to approx. 3,000 commercial/exempt and 45,500 residential properties,” the memo reads. Of those 3,000 commercial properties, 2,000 of those are concentrated in Boone and Blowing Rock.
A revaluation was scheduled for 2010 and then again in 2012, but the Watauga County Board of Commissioners voted to postpone each revaluation.
According to meeting minutes from 2009 when commissioners first postponed the reval after the economy nosedived, the former County Tax Administrator Kelvin Byrd stated that values had not grown at the same rate as the previous four-year period; home sales in the county were down approximately two-thirds; and values were still over the 90 percent ratio prior to the schedule of values being determined.
“Due to these factors Mr. Byrd recommended stopping the process now before any additional expenses were incurred toward the preparation for the 2010 revaluation,” the minutes read.
By law the county cannot postpone the reval any longer.
The Tax Appraisal Department has four county-employed appraisers working on the reval process and the county has hired three contractors – Cecil Suddreth, Traci Hovis and Jake Lackey – to assist in the revaluation of residential properties and RS&M Appraisals to assist primarily with commercial properties.
Warren said that the contractors are paid $4 per property card; each property evaluated has one card. According to County Finance Director Margaret Pierce, $175,000 is currently budgeted on the residential and commercial appraisals during the reval process.
Warren added that “most” of the 4,400 properties already evaluated have been done by the appraisers with the tax department, and he estimated that the data collection process will take 30 weeks with each appraiser completing 60 appraisals per day.
The revaluation will be effective Jan. 1, 2014. Property owners will receive a notice in the mail about their property’s revaluation at the beginning of the year, Warren said.