The Wilkes County tax office mailed 50,369 notices with new real property values, one for each land parcel in the county, to owners Monday.
The 2019 property revaluation in Wilkes—the first since 2013—produced the new values and set the total appraised value of real property in the county at $5.90 billion, up 3.9 percent from $5.68 billion in 2018.
Less than a 5 percent increase in the county’s property revaluation is a major change from the double-digit increases once typical for Wilkes revaluations. It’s also a significant shift from a 7 percent drop in values from 2012 ($5.89 billion) to the last revaluation in 2013 ($5.49 billion) due to the recession.
(The 2019 revaluation set the taxable value of real property in Wilkes at $4.56 billion, up 4.8 percent from $4.34 billion in 2018. “Taxable” excludes exempted or deferred property values. This value, plus the value of utilities, personal property and vehicles, is the county’s tax base.)
The 2019 revaluation set the total appraised value of property in North Wilkesboro at $621.9 million, up 2.42 percent from $607.2 million in 2018. The taxable value increased 3.46 percent, from $476.2 million in 2018 to $492.7 million in 2019.
The total appraised value of property in Wilkesboro increased 3 percent, from $478 million in 2018 to $493 million. The taxable value of Wilkesboro property rose by 4.6 percent, from $333.6 million to $349.2 million.
In Ronda, the total appraised value of property went from $329 million to $335 million, a 1.8 percent increase. The taxable value increased by 3.6 percent, from $278 million to $288 million.
The Wilkes County commissioners at one point planned to conduct revaluations every four years, but opted for six-year intervals since 2007 due to a lack of property sales needed to determine values. State law requires that counties conduct revaluations at least every eight years. The county tax office adjusts property values annually based on records of new construction and other changes.
Total taxable value of property decreased in two fire districts: McGrady, from $73.4 million to $62.6 million, and Little Brushy Mountain, from $40.4 million to $38.1 million. This is likely due to changes in fire district boundaries when they were recently remapped.
Wilkes County Tax Administrator Alex Hamilton said that due to results of the 2013 revaluation and N.C. Department of Revenue recommendations, his office kept property values a little below true market value, but returned to the goal of appraising them at 100 percent full market value with the 2019 revaluation.
Hamilton said many of the largest changes in individual residential and commercial property values—both increases and decreases—were corrections.
Except for some of these corrections, he said, commercial property values in downtown North Wilkesboro and elsewhere changed little in the new revaluation. A decrease of about $2 million in overall value of commercial property resulted mostly from depreciation of industrial buildings, Hamilton said.
He said increases in many individual residential parcels resulted from using software that puts the outline of known structures over aerial photos to identify additions and other taxable structures not being taxed. This helped identify additions and other construction done without required building permits, he said, adding that this continues to be a problem.
Hamilton said values of undeveloped lots in several mountain subdivisions begun during the real estate boom before the recession and marketed primarily to out-of-county buyers were reduced to levels in line with more traditional residential property in the respective vicinities of each.
The decreased value of mountain subdivision lots without houses is reflected in a 22 percent drop in the total appraised value of property in the McGrady Fire District (from $110 million to $86 million)
Hamilton said values of lots adjoining W. Kerr Scott Reservoir remained about the same, while values of nearby lots without lake frontage in the same subdivisions dropped as a result of sales prices.
The last three years of property sales prices were used to help determine values in the reappraisal.
Hamilton said the county tax office has had IAS Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal software for about three years “but this was the first time we used it in a revaluation.” He added, “It allows us to mine data better. We can get whatever we want in a matter of seconds.”
A revised schedule of present use tax values of agriculture, forestry and horticulture land was used for the new revaluation. The state’s present use system gives landowners the option of having parcels used for these purposes taxed at a lower rate if they meet certain requirements.
Acreage is checked for wooded vs. cleared land since cleared land is more valuable. Appraisers conduct field reviews and exit their vehicles to inspect if something on property record cards doesn’t match what was seen in aerial photos or during field reviews.
The revaluation began over two years ago by comparing the county’s most recent aerial photography with information on property record cards to look for buildings, house additions, pools and other improvements.
A property owner requesting a review of a value should first call the tax office at 336-651-7301 to make an appointment to talk to an appraiser in the office or fill out and mail, email or fax appeal forms sent with new values. Requests for reviews should be made by April 18, said Hamilton, adding that few reviews had been requested by Friday.
“We don’t want people coming in without first calling and setting up appointments,” he said. “If a form is completed and sent in, we’ll look at it and visit the property if requested,” said Hamilton, adding that property owners will be contacted for additional information if necessary.
After being notified about results of reviews, he said, taxpayers can submit written appeals to the Wilkes Board of Equalization and Review. Hamilton said this board, consisting of members appointed by the county commissioners, is supposed to start meetings in April and can uphold the value that was appealed or set a new value.
The next level in the appeals process is with the N.C Property Tax Commission. After that, it can be appealed in court.
Hamilton said legitimate reasons to appeal a new value include having a recent appraisal with a lower value, knowing certain conditions of a house that the tax office didn’t know, having the property currently listed for sale for less than the new value, incorrect information on a property tax card and having current Realtor listings of similar properties that back up the taxpayer’s claim.
“Just because you think the value is too high is not a legitimate reason to appeal,” he said.