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What new property values mean for your taxes

Property owners in Haywood County faced a Catch 22 when their new property values arrived in the mail last week.

If your value went up, it’s nice to know the lackluster real estate market didn’t undermine your home’s worth. The downside will be higher property taxes. Those who saw their value go down will likely pay less in taxes — but it’s hard to be excited that your home isn’t worth as much as it used to be.

The total value of property in the county remained flat. If you add it all up — the value of every home, lot and tract of land — it amounts to $6.791 billion, an increase of less than 1 percent over last year’s total value of $6.787 billion.

The flat figures mean the county escaped the brunt of the national real estate downturn. As a result, the county won’t have to hike the property tax rate to bring in the same amount of money as last year.

“I am relieved there were no gigantic swings,” Commissioner Mark Swanger said.

Had property values gone down as a whole, the tax rate would have to go up for the county to collect the same amount as last year. Commissioners would be hard-pressed to explain the nuance of raising the tax rate, but not really raising taxes given lower property values.

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Commissioners have been sparred that dilemma, but only to some degree.

Unfortunately, Swanger pointed out that sales tax collected by the county might be down as consumers are buying less. And the state is poised to stick the county with more of the tab for everything from road paving to education, Swanger said.

Commissioners may be faced with raising property taxes to make up for these shortfalls — unless they want to cut the county’s budget for the third year in a row, something that may not be possible, they said.

“We have already reduced it almost as much as we possibly can,” said Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick.

If the state cuts education, does the county hang the schools out to dry or pick up the cost locally?

“We have to wait and see what Raleigh does and then decide as a community and as commissioners, what do people want? What do you want your government to do?” Kirkpatrick said.

Those tough decisions will be facing the county over the next few months. A budget — and tax rate — will be hashed out by July 1 when the new fiscal year starts. Then, and only then, can homeowners pull out their calculators and know for sure what their new property values will mean for their tax bill.


Why the revaluation?

In North Carolina, counties are required to conduct a mass appraisal of real estate every eight years — called a revaluation, or “reval” for short. Property taxes are based on property values — the more your property is worth the more taxes you pay. The reval is intended to level the playing field, bringing the county’s assessed value of your property in line with the true market value so everyone is paying their fair share come tax day.


How do you calculate taxes?

Here’s how to figure county taxes at the current tax rate at 51.4 cents for every $100 of property value. Divide your property value by $100 then multiply by 0.514. This doesn’t include fire taxes for your fire district or town taxes if you live in the town limits. Bear in mind commissioners won’t set this year’s final tax rate until June.

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