Jeremy Akins earned his chops as Alamance County’s tax administrator more than four yeas ago when he presided over a staff-driven revaluation that proved both cheaper and less controversial than the county’s previous mass reappraisal of taxable property, which had been outsourced to a private contractor.
But now as Akins prepares for his next revaluation as the head of Alamance County’s tax office, he has decided to step back from the formula that had won him the plaudits of the county’s elected officials in 2017.
Earlier this week, Akins persuaded the county’s board of commissioners to let him outsource much of the work on the county’s next reval, which he had previously convinced the commissioners to move up from 2025 to 2023 in order to avoid a costly, state-level cut in the tax values of public utilities.
In a presentation to the commissioners on Monday, Akins attributed part of his rationale for departing from the in-house model to the retirement of a veteran staff member who had conducted much of the county’s commercial appraisals during the last revaluation. Akins also raised some misgivings about his own ability to handle residential appraisals, which he had personally overseen the last time around.
Akins went on to ask the commissioners for leave to hire a firm called Vincent Valuations to conduct the revaluation’s commercial appraisals and to compile a “schedule of values” that he said will serve as a sort of Kelley Blue Book for the county’s next reval. Akins assured the commissioners that this North Carolina-based company had more than just a geographic advantage over the two out-of-state rivals that also applied for the county’s revaluation contract. He went on to note that, in the course of reviewing the three firms, he contacted 58 of their previous clients for feedback on each company’s performance.
“That carried a lot of weight with me,” the county’s tax administrator added, “and with Vincent, it was 100 percent positive. I didn’t have one person come back with any negative comment.”
At Akins’ urging, the commissioners unanimously agreed to let him retain Vincent’s services for a maximum fee of $250,000 over three years.
During his presentation to the commissioners, Akins also had some good news to report about his department’s own labors in collecting the taxes that area property owners owed for past fiscal year.
The county’s tax administrator said that his staff ultimately managed to bring in 98.70 percent of $89 million that it had billed for that cycle – an increase of .05 percentage points over the previous year’s rate. Akins observed that this rate is also .02 percentage points above than the average for Alamance County’s five closest peers, and he stressed that his office achieved this relatively favorable rate in spite of coronavirus-related obstacles, such as postal delays and the inability to garnish the wages of people who’ve been living off of federal pandemic relief payments.
“What did that do to the collection rate – it’s lower,” he went on to assure the commissioners. “But I don’t know how to quantify it.”