Things have been rather quiet around Alamance County’s tax office since last week’s scramble to meet the payment deadline for property taxes billed in 2022.
But like the moment when the music cuts out in a horror flick, the silence that has settled over the tax office has held a distinct sense of foreboding for the county’s tax administrator Jeremy Akins.
Later this month, Akins and his colleagues will confront the initial public response to their latest property tax revaluation, which aims to recalibrate the tax values set during the county’s last mass reappraisal in 2017.
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The current reval, which is meant to serve as a snapshot of real estate market on January 1 of this year, follows a six-year stretch of escalating home prices throughout much of Alamance County. In fact, the sheer extent of this boom prompted the county’s board of commissioners to depart from their traditional eight-year cycle for this particular reval – whose six-year interval is merely a staging point en route to a new, four-year cycle for future revaluations.
The county’s tax office is scheduled to mail out the results of this reval to individual property owners on January 23. In the meantime, Akins has begun to calculate the reval’s overall impact on the county’s property tax base in order to share this information with the board of commissioners when they convene their next meeting on January 17.
Akins told The Alamance News that, at this point, the preliminary numbers suggest that the county’s tax base has grown from $11.975 billion to $21.4 billion – a gain of roughly 78.7 percent. He added, however, that this figure is likely to be revised down to about 75 percent as he and his colleagues make last minute adjustments to the revaluation’s results.
“I don’t know the specifics right now,” the county’s tax administrator went on to acknowledge in an interview earlier this week. “I’m waiting for it to be pencils down before we run [the figure]. But by the time we have the board meeting on Tuesday, we’ll know the percentage.”
Akins has previously stressed that the revaluation’s impact on individual taxpayers will ultimately hinge on the property tax rate which the commissioners set later this year. If they opt to impose a “revenue neutral,” or break-even, tax rate, the net result should be a wash for the average property owner – who will be on the hook for more or less the same sum they were previously billed.
Akins nevertheless told The Alamance News that he expects many taxpayers to feel some initial shock when they glimpse their new tax values later this month. He added that it’s too soon to tell if this first blush reaction will lead to a large number of appeals from the public.
Akins noted that an appeal rate of 10 percent is par for the course with even a well-run revaluation – although he recalled that the proportion shot up to 30 percent in 2009 after the county completed what was then widely considered a botched mass reappraisal.
In any event, Akins acknowledged that the adjudication of these appeals will be a priority for his office once the new tax values begin to appear in the mailboxes of area property owners.
“The moment we’re done and we’ve sent notice, the challenge will change,” he said. “The new challenge will be how do we manage the appeals process.”
In order to grease the skids for a smoother appeals process, the tax office plans to hold a public primer about the revaluation on Friday, January 20. This presentation will run from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the meeting chamber on the second floor of the county’s main office building at 124 West Elm Street in Graham.