Charleston County to consider delaying reassessment of home values
2009/04/06, 6:55 pm
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Charleston County could delay its scheduled five-year reassessment of real property values from 2010 until 2011, in part because it does not have enough money or staff trained for the work.

Council members will consider the delay at a meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The council’s Finance Committee endorsed the measure last week.

Related story: Bill to end point-of-sale reassessment gets House approval

Reassessment of real estate values is set on a five-year cycle. The process is meant to recalibrate property values based on fluctuating market conditions and to redistribute the tax burden based on up-to-date values.

The scheduled process calls for Charleston County residents to receive updated values on their October 2010 tax bills with taxes due the following January. But the neighborhood-by-neighborhood reassessment process takes two years to complete and has not yet begun for 2010, according to a memo from the county assessor’s office.

Staff members have been focused on implementing a recently enacted state law requiring the tax values of sold properties to be updated immediately, based on their sale prices, the memo said. In the past, all properties kept the same tax value until the next five-year reassessment cycle.

Implementing that law has doubled the workload for the assessor’s office, the memo said. And now, the S.C. General Assembly is debating legislation that would change those rules again.

Meanwhile, half of the assessor’s office staff is new and needs training for the reassessment, the memo said. On top of that, a hiring freeze has left three positions vacant.

Another reason the delay was suggested is cost. Mailing reassessment notices in June 2010 would cost an estimated $150,000, an amount not available in the fiscal 2010 budget, the memo said.

A 2010 reassessment also has the potential for widespread confusion among taxpayers, many of whom would receive tax notices reflecting higher property values. That could come as a shock at a time when values have been trending downward.

The memo explains that current taxes are based on property values as of Dec. 31, 2003, and, though property values are declining now, many remain at least 25% above those 2003 levels.

Moving ahead with reassessment as planned in 2010 could lead to so many taxpayer appeals that it could hold up the budgeting process for the county and its municipalities. Waiting a year might allow for stimulus and financial reforms to kick in, the memo said.

Other reasons for the delay, according to the assessor’s office, include:

  • Computer software used for the reassessment process is in implementation stages now. Officials recommend allowing a year for phasing in the new system before undertaking reassessment.
  • Because of new state laws, the 2010 reassessment is likely to reduce the county’s tax base. Waiting until 2011 would delay the impact of that reduction until the economy improves.

2 Comments so far
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This has become a big issue here in NC too. Here in Union County, the county officials were all to gung ho to reassess last year, and now the tax values are more than the current market values. Even when the homeowner appeals, they are not granting assessments on CURRENT values, and am hoping new laws will be proposed here to protect homeowners. I will be in Raleigh in a couple of weeks to address this issue in the legislature.

Comment by Lori Bee

Keep me posted on the Raleigh meeting and results and spread the word of the new blog. Thanks Lori.

Comment by mhanna43

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