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Resistance against Chatham tax revaluations is futile

By Mark Stinson
Posted Wednesday, February 25, 2009

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Siler City, NC - I was concerned when I got my tax reevaluation so I made a phone call. I recognized the lady on the phone and realized she must have had a number of people bitching at her to be as hateful as she sounded on the phone.

What has the county done to cut back? What have they done to make daily operations more cost effective?

I am saying this in defense of her as I have delt with her in person before and know she is normally very pleasant to deal with. With this in mind I asked several questions. The first was that we bought a mobile home ( modular ) because as a rule the value will decrease as time goes by and tax values drop unlike a conventional home. Why has my home value increased on a 13 year old mobile home to the point its tax value is more than what I can buy a similar replacement for?

She responded that the appraisals were done in the tax department by people trained by the state. She couldn’t tell me the methods used or why my value went up. I asked her to look at my particular tax bill and she informed me she had no access to a computer to get that information.

Question. If one works for the tax assessors department shouldn’t they have access to a computer with that information? I got no useful answer during that phone call and I could tell she was a bit bent out of shape so I said thank you and ended the call.

I decided the tax system, like the government in this county is broken or a better word ( out dated ) with the times. I have the option to contest the bill so I looked at my options.

Here is what I learned about tax values in this county. A one acre lot with septic and water is valued at $25000. I learned this average price from Suits homes in Siler City.

What has happened is simple. The property values in the northern part of the county are elevated due to the fact during the last massive development phase we went through land there became a premium. The lots skyrocketed to $25,00 plus an acre with septic and water for home site building. Taxes are based on similar properties and what they sell for.

There aren’t many sales in this part of the county so homes here are taxed based on like properties sold in the northern part of the county. This is obviously wrong. A similar home in that part of the county like mine will sell for my taxed value. In this part of the county there are many like mine with prices reduced below taxed value that aren’t selling. My home was $39.500 new and the new replacement like it now is $47,000. If you value my.940 acre plot at $25,000 plus $47,000 you have $72,000; the current revalue I received for my property under the current tax re evaluation process.

For me to argue my tax value under this tax process is pointless. I am being taxed for a new home when mine is 13 years old. It’s a fact the system is broken and there is nothing we can do as individuals to lower our tax bills unless we light a fire under our county commissioners.

You can contest it, but you will need a copy of a sale on a similar property in your immediate neighborhood, a list of things wrong with your property to devaluate it and hope that they don’t come out to evaluate it. Because if they do your tax value could go up even more.

We all are hurting from the economic downturn and have had to cut back.

What has the county done to cut back? What have they done to make daily operations more cost effective? Has anyone taken time to really look at ways to stream line operations to eliminate extra spending?

Every time we hear cutbacks form the county its about cutting jobs or services but you never hear about what they are doing to make the county operate more like a profitable business with a lean expense sheet. How are they cutting out the wasteful spending? We all are doing our part trimming out our own budgets to get by and as elected officials they should reflect out needs by doing this as well.

I have seen where counties and cities have adopted new work schedules to save money.

One had a brilliant idea. Instead of laying off employees they adopted a four day work week. Instead of an eight hour day they had a ten hour day. This kept employees at the same pay on a 40 hour week but saved a fortune in heating , cooling and daily expenses by dropping one day a week. I would bet money the county could do this with some departments and the employees would love to have the same pay with a three day weekend.

Raleigh tells its residents what days trash pick ups are. We have varied days by location that the recycling centers are closed. The one I use is closed on Wednesday so I know to never go on that day. It wouldn’t hurt to close it on Sunday too. There would be one weekend day and four week days for everyone to dump trash. Its just one day a week but it saves money.

It’s little common sense time saving and money saving steps that will keep our taxes low. Stopping and regulating overdevelopment, especially developing high density population areas, will help too.

One thing I see where the county has dropped the ball is in luring in new business. Its been no secret Chatham is bleeding employers off at a staggering rate.

If you really want to be heard and keep your tax bill low don’t bother the tax department, jump your commissioner, get their attention and relate to them you are fed up with taxes growing faster than your income.

It's time we bring our county into the 21st century and fix this mess. Old outdated and ineffective methods need to be replaced with new more efficient ones.

I plan to get in touch with my commissioner and burn his ear, I advise everyone to do the same.

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