BEAUFORT — It’s still unclear if the county’s collective tax valuation will increase or decrease in January 2020.
This is according to County Tax Administrator Sarah Davis who, at county commissioners’ Monday meeting at the administration building on Court House Square, formally announced the schedule of values is available to the public.
“It’s currently available to (county commissioners) and also available to the public to come (to the tax office) to review or request an electronic copy,” Ms. Davis said, later adding, “it’s still a little early for us to determine what the values are doing, but we have moved on to the final stage.”
The tax administrator’s office is located at 302 Court House Square on the first floor of the administration building.
“The schedule of values is just a guide that we use in the revaluation process,” Ms. Davis said, adding that the schedule will not give residents an exact rate. “It’s one piece of it.”
Originally scheduled for 2018, the property revaluation was moved to 2020 because of Hurricane Florence. At the time, the county’s former tax administrator, Carl Tilghman, suggested the county postpone the revaluation due to the property damage caused by the hurricane. Mr. Tilghman said it would be difficult to correctly value property during storm recovery.
Speaking to county commissioners Monday, Ms. Davis said she and her staff are in the final stages of the process and there are a number of things they look at to determine property values.
“We look at vacant lots, improved land, residential improvements, farm buildings and improvements, commercial properties, industrial properties, residential properties, any type of real property that you can think of,” Ms. Davis said. “So you can see that’s quite a challenge.”
She also said the appraisal process is a mass appraisal.
“A lot of people, sometimes, when they look at their tax value they think of a fee appraisal, like what you get when you go to the bank to have your house mortgaged,” Ms. Davis said. “It’s not always as easy as looking at one property and finding the costs of one property. We don’t go on the inside of homes…we take a snapshot of the outside and try to apply it. I always like to let people know to keep that in mind.”
In total, the tax office will be assessing 60,761 parcels throughout the county.
Ms. Davis said one of the next steps is for county commissioners to approve the schedule of values, and county staff will give residents time to review the tentative schedule.
County commissioners agreed they would hold a public hearing on the proposed schedule during their Monday, Nov. 18 meeting, after which they will consider the schedule for approval.
Once complete, the 2020 revaluation will be the first since 2015. County Chairperson Mark Mansfield said the county’s collective valuation increased during the past two revaluation periods. Although tax office staff said it’s still too early to predict an outcome for 2020, Mr. Mansfield predicted a marginal increase.
“We saw the most significant decrease in 2011,” Mr. Mansfield said. “And in 2015, it was about a 13 percent decrease. We were scheduled for a revaluation last year … but after all the devastation we decided to put that off because the answer to the $1 million question is property values are probably going up.”
He also predicted the revaluation wouldn’t have a significant impact on residents’ pocketbooks.
“Just because your tax values will go up, your tax rates (should) go down by some nominal amount,” Mr. Mansfield said. “Those values, they have to be close because…it’s going to be four years before we can do them again.”
Ms. Davis said the purpose of revaluating properties every few years is to eliminate what she describes as inequities that might develop.
“The value in January of 2020 should reflect the current market,” Ms. Davis said.
Contact Dean-Paul Stephens at 252-726-7081, ext. 232; email Dean@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @DeanPEStephens.