Swain revaluation bumps values up 16.5 percent

Four years after Swain County leaders trashed a skewed property reassessment, the county has completed a new revaluation.

Low values prompt reval delay

Real estate prices have taken such a drastic plunge in Macon and Jackson counties — which once boasted the highest concentration of mega-developments catering to the high-end second home market — that county commissioners there keep postponing the countywide property revaluation.

Going once, going twice … Local banks still feeling hangover from unprecedented boom and bust

fr bankswildflowerAs Macon Bank scurried to get in on the ground floor of the real estate heyday in the mountains, it unwittingly stumbled into a house of cards, and found itself caught up in a scheme akin to insider trading that artificially inflated high-end lot prices and duped the bank into making risky loans.

Swain County property values looking up

Tim Cain has a bird’s eye view of Swain County’s real estate market, and from where he sits, the news looks good.

Cain was hired to oversee the countywide appraisal of every home, lot and tract of land in Swain County, a periodic exercise used to determine property taxes. His firm, the Raleigh-based Assessment Solutions, has visited more than 85 percent of the properties in Swain County during the past nine months. His expert assessment: property values in the county have bottomed out and are now on the rise.

“There has been a leveling off, and I am really excited to see what happens this spring,” Cain said. “It appears that they (property values) have stopped falling.”

Although the numbers are nowhere near those shown in the 2009 revaluation, property values are close to pre-recession numbers recorded during the 2005 reval — a positive sign considering the plunge the market took during the past few years.

“It has picked up, and we are feeling optimistic that is will continue,” said Kelly Stribling, president of the North Jackson County Board of Realtors, a local board that includes Swain County. “(But) It is certainly not like it was.”

Homeowners are slowly starting to buy and sell property, though many must still reduce their asking price if they want anyone to bite.

“There is a slight decrease in pricing,” Stribling said. “Some homeowners and sellers if they really want to move the property, they drop the price.”

But, people are still willing to pay a good price for a nice home, she added.

Cain agreed, saying that a nice chalet near the picturesque Nantahala Gorge or Fontana Lake will likely see an increase in value since the last approved revaluation in 2005. Meanwhile, homes in Bryson City seem to have remained steady when compared to the 2005 reval.

“If you’ve got a house in Bryson City, we really haven’t changed much,” Cain said. “The numbers that we are seeing now closely mirror the numbers we saw in 2005.”

Commercial lots will likely see an increase overall, while vacant lots, which were once destined to become subdivisions, will still lose some value.

“You’ve got a lot of subdivisions; they’ve got the infrastructure in place; (and) they are just sitting there,” Cain said.

People had bought, what were then, choice pieces of property at a premium and made plans for development. Then, the housing bubble burst, and the properties have since sat vacant, waiting.

“People are waiting out the economy,” Cain said. “They were demanding top dollar for their lots. And today, you’ve got developments that have gone bust.”

The last few years have been “a scary time” for people who need or want to sell property, Cain said.

Property owners’ hesitancy to put their lot on the market, and people’s reservations about buying have made it more difficult revaluate parcels, a process which is based partially on the sale price of adjoining properties.

Realtors and property assessors are seeing only about one-third of the transactions that they saw five years ago, Cain said.

Each property revaluation is specifically tailored to an individual county and even a specific part of the county.

“There is a specific reason that people go to Swain County,” Cain said. “It is a distinct place.”

The market value is determined by how much the property has depreciated, how much nearby properties sold for and how any improvements affect the property’s worth. A homeowner may spend $10,000 adding an in-ground pool, but the addition is essentially worthless unless it is deemed a valued amenity by homebuyers. The same is true for a $40,000 kitchen renovation. It is only as valuable as buyers in Swain County believe it to be.


Do-over of Swain’s reval a good call

Swain County commissioners seem to have made the right decision when they decided to throw out the results of its countywide property revaluation in 2009 and call for a do-over.

The 2009 revaluation captured a snapshot of Swain County real estate values during the height of a market boom — and before everything went bust.

It takes about two years to appraise every home, lot and tract of land in the county, so that 2009 appraisal largely drew on 2007 values, when the market was still hopping.

Since someone’s property value dictates how much they pay in taxes, a bunk appraisal based on no longer valid real estate values would have skewed what people legitimately should have paid in taxes.

So commissioner tossed out the results and decided to try again in a few years. That time is now here, and the appraiser leading the process said commissioners made the right call to hold off.

The 2009 reval that was tossed out would have posted a 30 percent increase to property values on average since 2005.

The do-over of the reval underway now shows instead of increasing, values are pretty much on par with where they were in 2005.

“The numbers are significantly lower than they would have been during that (2009) revaluation,” said Tim Cain, president of the Raleigh-based Assessment Solutions.

Jackson reval probably will occur in 2016; commissioners cite lack of sales data for second postponement

Jackson leaders will likely pushback a countywide property revaluation from next year to 2016 following a strong recommendation by their tax man.

“Truthfully, if you want this thing done and you want it done right, we don’t have an adequate timeline,” Tax Assessor Bobby McMahan told commissioners last week. “The more time we have, the better quality our work is going to be.”

Commissioners had instructed McMahan and his staff to move forward with a revaluation in 2013, which was already one year later than originally planned.

In a revaluation, every home, lot and tract of land is assigned a new property value to reflect the going real estate market — a value that in turn dictates how much people pay in property taxes.

Several residents made a public appeal to commissioners earlier this month to delay the revaluation beyond 2013. Falling real estate prices for high-end homes means affluent property owners will see their taxes come down in a revaluation, and the burden would be redistributed to the county’s middle-class residents.

Most of the property tax burden is currently shouldered by property owners in Cashiers-Glenville area, dominated by high-end resorts and second- and third-homes. Delaying the revaluation means the county could continue could taxing these high-end properties at an inflated book value.

But that isn’t the reason the county is giving for the delay. McMahan said there simply is a lack of sales data — not enough homes and lots being bought and sold — for the county to know what the going rate is for property.

The drop in sales is staggering: there are 444 sales from the past three years that could be considered for the revaluation, noted Commissioner Mark Jones who is from the Cashiers-Glenville area. That, McMahan added, compares to nearly 8,000 property transactions during the last revaluation period.

“It just makes our position of trying to proceed less defensible,” Chairman Jack Debnam, a real estate agent in real life, said of the woeful sales numbers.

The lack of sales makes it difficult to set accurate values that Jackson County could defend in potentially costly legal appeals. Property owners who disagree with a county’s revaluation have the legal right to challenge on a state level. Counties must be able to prove how they arrived at property values by using data from actual sales.

“Would you say the big driver is the lack of sales?” Commissioner Doug Cody asked in reiteration of the shifting county position about when exactly to conduct a revaluation.

“That data is the most important thing you have to have,” McMahan said in reply.

“If postponed, what portion of your work would be in vain? How much of that would still be used?” Commissioner Charles Elders asked McMahan.

“None of it is in vain,” the tax assessor said in response. “You never truly quit, never totally stop working on revaluation.”

“And to do the job you should do, you really need this (extra) time,” Elders said. “You don’t need guess work?”

“Right, you don’t need to guess,” McMahan said in reply.

Tax Assessor Richard Lightner in neighboring Macon County successfully encouraged commissioners there to delay until 2015, the legal eight-year span allowable since the county’s last revaluation in 2007. He, too, cited likely indefensible legal action in his recommendation.

Haywood County, unlike counties farther to the west, moved forward with a revaluation last year after postponing it by just one year. Property values on a whole remained flat, although there was variation between types of property and neighborhood. Haywood does not have nearly the same volume of high-end second homes, however.

Swain County did a revaluation two years ago but tossed the results out. It will conduct a revaluation in 2014.

Continue milking high-end homes for property taxes or realign real estate values?

Jackson County commissioners plan this week to discuss the upcoming property revaluation, though it remains unclear whether they will postpone the process as some residents are requesting.

In a revaluation, every home, lot and tract of land is assigned a new property value to reflect the going real estate market — a value that in turn dictates how much people pay in property taxes. But, the volatile real estate market has led many counties to postpone revaluations.

Jackson County has postponed its revaluation until 2013, but Tax Assessor Bobby McMahan has suggested waiting a couple more years. McMahan plans to give a report on the issue during a commissioner work session Jan. 13.

The market value of high-priced lots and homes are destined to fall in a countywide revaluation. Delaying the reval means the county can continue taxing high-end properties at inflated book value. Going ahead with the reval would shift property tax burden to median-priced properties as those are more likely to hold their value while the high-end properties fall — and that’s what Jackson County residents are protesting.

“You will be negatively impacting the lower-income families,” said Avram Friedman, an environmental advocate in Sylva.

Allen Lomax, a local real estate agent, told Jackson County commissioners a property revaluation “will definitely” have the most wallop on the wallets of the less affluent in the county.

While Macon and Swain have postponed their revaluations for a couple more years, Haywood County went ahead with its last year.

Counties must do a revaluation every eight years, which wouldn’t be until 2016 for Jackson.

Carol Odom of the Glenville community views the situation from another angle. She told commissioners that she’s neither rich nor under-taxed. Odom said she’s seen 75 percent of her income evaporate because of the dour economy. She believes homeowners shouldn’t be paying taxes based on false property values but that the whole county should “share their pain.”

“I hope you do revaluate, and that it gets shared all across the county — everyone should contribute. I’m not here to support other people financially,” Odom said.

Housing market prompts revaluation scrutiny

Macon County might postpone revaluating property — again — from 2013 to 2015, a remarkably different response to the crushingly bad housing market than Jackson County is taking.

Richard Lightner, longtime tax assessor for Macon County, said there simply hasn’t been enough property changing hands to set meaningful property values. And most importantly, he said, it would be difficult to set accurate values that Macon County could adequately defend from costly legal appeals. Property owners who disagree with a county’s revaluation have the legal right to challenge on a state level.

By waiting, more selling and buying will have taken place, though Lightner emphasized there’s no crystal ball he’s holding that allows him to read the future — and no guarantees that the market will be better then. Still, just by adding years to the process, one can safely assume some pieces of property will have sold, he said.

Macon and Jackson are similar on the tax fronts because of the communities of Highlands (in Macon) and Cashiers (in Jackson). Both communities are dominated by high-priced, multimillion-dollar homes, at least pre-recession prices. Those homeowners currently shoulder the bulk of the tax burdens in both counties. In Jackson County, by way of example, 57 percent of the tax base is located in just two townships: Cashiers and Hamburg, both in the southern end of the county.

Here is the key issue for taxpayers, the why-you-should-care, bottom-line point: Macon, by likely postponing a revaluation until 2015, would keep the tax burden predominantly on its higher-end residents in Highlands, and spare tax increases for the short term to the county at large. Jackson, by comparison, is looking still to do its revaluation in 2013, which means revaluated property, coupled with a revenue-neutral budget would, almost inevitably, shift the tax burden from the Cashiers area to the less-affluent areas of the county.

“It seemed that most of the pushback about delaying beyond 2013 came from taxpayers in the southern end of the county,” Jackson County Manager Chuck Wooten said in explanation. “Property owners in the southern end could see larger declines in tax value while those in the northern end will see smaller declines, which could result in less taxes for the citizens in the southern end versus more taxes for the northern end.”

Revaluations in North Carolina must take place at least every eight years. Jackson County has the option of pushing back until 2016. Macon County must do its revaluation by 2015.

What’s not in question is what revaluation will mean for both counties: declining values when compared to the boom housing years. Jackson County did its last revaluation in 2008, and Macon County in 2007. Both counties opted to postpone revaluation past a four-year cycle, which they’d gone to because escalating land prices were causing sticker shock to taxpayers. This means Jackson County is using property values set in about 2007, and Macon County is using property values determined in 2006.

New values would mean “the $150,000 home on one acre would probably go up; undeveloped land and more expensive home will have a decrease,” Macon County Commissioner Kevin Corbin said in a recent meeting on the revaluation.

And that would shift the tax burden.

“I don’t have a problem with that per se,” said Macon Board Chairman Brian McClellan, who lives in Highlands and works as a financial advisor there. “If a big house loses value, they should get a tax break. My issue is, if we don’t have good comps, then we don’t want to be at risk defending a lot of revaluations we might not be able to defend.”

Corbin said that he does have some questions about whether Macon County should just go forward, like Jackson for now is set on doing, “and let the chips fall where they may.”

“When is our economy going to return? Maybe we are living in the new normal,” Corbin said.

Macon Commissioner Bobby Kuppers, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and former commander of a submarine, said the board should be clear in the message it sends to the county’s citizens.

“I think we can say, with some degree of certainty, where those chips are going to fall,” Kuppers said. “If we do the revaluation (in 2013), we owe it to the people of this county to warn them, ‘Incoming Chips.’”

Lightner added, “Those people you see at the grocery store or getting their car fixed, the burden of the chips are going to fall on their laps.”

Commissioners Ron Haven and Ronnie Beale indicated they would support postponing the revaluation.

“The people this would hit the hardest are the very people who can least afford it,” Beale said.

A vote by commissioners is expected in Macon County next month.

Sales keep pace with county’s new values

Property in Haywood County is selling 4 percent higher than the new values on the county’s tax books, refuting criticism that the county blanketly appraised property for more than it was worth.

There have been 215 property sales in the first five months of the year. Collectively, they sold for $36.392 million. Those same properties were assessed by county appraisers for a total of $34.97 million.

“The sales numbers speak for themselves,” said Commissioner Mark Swanger. “Property is selling for a higher price than the revaluation amounts. That would indicate to me the revaluation is accurate.”

The county’s team of appraisers relied on complex formulas to assign each home, lot and tract of land in the county a new value — values which in turn dictate how much people pay for property tax. Critics claim the depressed real estate market should have resulted in lower property values practically across the board compared to the last revaluation five years ago.

But in fact, the revaluation showed half the properties went up and half went down.

“Of course you can find random highs and random lows that sold for more or less. There’s going to be some that are up and some that are down,” said David Francis, head of the county tax department. “You are still going to have that fluctuation in the market. Just because the stock market is down one day doesn’t mean some stocks didn’t still go up that day.”

Francis said he has confidence the revaluation is accurate, and takes solace in the stats showing real estate sales — on the whole — are coming in slightly above the values pegged by the county.

“What we don’t want to see is that sales price below the tax value consistently,” Francis said.

Since property values determine taxes, when the values are too high, people end up paying more than their share of taxes.


Putting stock in comp sales

Appraisals were based on comp sales, the selling price of similar homes or lots nearby. Comp sales are epitome of market value: a cold, hard, irrefutable number of what like property actually sold for.

Critics have complained that the county’s comp sales were poorly chosen, and didn’t always compare apples to apples.

For starters, the sluggish real estate market has made for fewer comps to go by.

Horace Edwards of Cruso said appraisers lacked comp sales in his neck of the woods and so cast a wide a net looking for sales in other areas, landing on houses sold miles away for an ultimately rather subjective comparison.

“They were not at all suitable to my property,” Edwards said. “If I went out and traveled around the county in the same manner I could find houses that were the complete opposite of their revaluation.”

Meanwhile, a state of flux has kept everyone — buyers, sellers, banks, appraisers and Realtors alike — guessing what real estate might be worth one month to the next.

“They postponed it last year with the expectation it would be a stable economy this year, which was a fallacy because they didn’t get any improvement at all in the economy,” Edwards said.

Of course, comps aren’t perfect. Maybe the seller threw in the appliances or living room drapes to fetch a higher price. Or maybe they got a job somewhere else and sold for less to move in a hurry.

“That is going to happen every once in a while. We can’t do anything about that,” said Mary Ann Enloe, who sits on the board of equalization and review, her fourth time in the role.

Despite the many appeals — it will take until August to hear them all — the county’s appraised values seem mostly accurate to her.

“Of course the proof is in the pudding. Right now it is tracking really well,” Enloe said, citing the sales numbers.

How right is the reval?

There’s only one way to tell how right — or wrong — Haywood County’s recent property revaluation is. Appraisers attempt to peg the price of house or lot, predicting what a buyer would pay should a ‘for sale’ sign go up in the yard.

As hackles fly over whether the county’s assessed values are too high or low, the only way to tell for sure is delving into the world of property sales.

The Smoky Mountain News compared the selling price of 84 properties in April and May to the new values assessed by the county. Of those, 20 percent were accurate within a 10 percent margin of error.

Of the 68 whose assessed value was more than 10 percent off the actual selling price, 37 sold for less than their assessed values and 29 of them sold for more.

Property in Maggie, Crabtree, Bethel and Beaverdam were more likely to be overvalued in the county’s appraisal. Property in Waynesville was more likely to be undervalued compared to the sale prices — more likely to fetch a higher selling price than what appraisers had pegged it for.

Waynesville sales shows 17 properties outside the margin of error. The majority — 12 out of 17 — sold for more than the revaluation amount.

However, six out of nine properties in the Beaverdam community were valued higher by county appraiser than what the actually sold for. For example, a three bedroom, three bathroom house in Beaverdam valued at $262,900 was sold for $192,500.

According to the data, assessors undervalued three out of four properties in Crabtree and all properties in the Iron Duff community.

Maggie Valley properties were appraised for more than their actual selling price in seven out of 10 instances. A three bedroom, three bathroom house in Maggie Valley that was valued at $204,800 sold for $115,000.

There are few discernable trends when comparing the accuracy of appraised value by price bracket.

Of 14 properties that were appraised at $100,000 or less, 12 of them sold for more than the revaluation assessment.

Of the 42 properties appraised between $100,000-$300,000, 14 fetched a higher selling price than the county’s value and 28 sold for less than the county’s value.

Of the 7 properties appraised between $300,000 and $500,000, four sold for more and three for less.

Only two properties sold in April and May with an appraised value of more than $500,000. One home in Maggie, revalued at $520,400 sold for less at $340,000. Another in Waynesville appraised at $541,000 sold for more at $620,000.

— By DeeAnna Haney • Contributing writer

Row over property values in Haywood still raging unabated

Haywood County commissioners continue to be dogged by outcries over new property values.

Critics are openly deriding commissioners at every county meeting. They’ve circulated petitions, garnering hundreds of signatures from people who think the county has pegged their property values too high. They’ve held a few citizens meetings around the county to rant about it. Someone even took out a newspaper ad urging everyone to file an appeal over their new property values.

Critics have proffered varying conspiracy theories over revaluation, claiming that the county knowingly and artificially inflated the value of some property as a money grab to boost property tax collections.

One theory suggests the county, run by Democrats, appraised property higher in the Republican-stronghold of Bethel and Cruso to stick them with higher taxes.

The most common theory, however, is that the county is somehow in cahoots with wealthier homeowners and lowered their property values so they wouldn’t have to pay as much in taxes, while hiking the values on lower to median priced homes.

Indeed, higher-priced homes have seen their values fall. And lower- to median-priced homes held their value and went up, as a trend.

But that’s merely a reflection of sales in the market place — not a formula invented by the county’s appraisers, according to David Francis, the head of the county tax department.

“We have no control over the market,” Francis said.

No more so than the weatherman decides what the weather will be.

But, the disgruntled property owners point to the depressed economy and flagging real estate market.

SEE ALSO: How right is the reval?

“The prices are going down and down and down,” said Jonnie Cure, a watchdog for county government. “We are glutted with houses for sale. So when you have a huge supply and very low demand you obviously are going to have a reduction in the price in homes.”

But in fact, property values in Haywood County have not dropped as much as people think, according to Francis. Compared to five years ago, property on average is about the same, although some properties have gone up and others have gone down.

At stake? How much you pay in property taxes hinges on your property’s value. The county recently reassessed every home and tract of land, bringing the book value in line with actual market value. The revaluations are required periodically by the state to ensure everyone pays their fair share of property taxes.

As for the lower- to median-priced homes going up, they held their value because there was more demand for homes in that price range. Conversely, sales at the upper end stagnated, Francis said.

Francis has bowed up over the conspiracy theories that the county was sinister in giving upper-end homeowners a break.

“I was trying to do the best job I could for my fellow citizens. I grew up here, my children go to school here. It was important for me to make this right,” Francis said.

At a county commissioner meeting two weeks ago, the repeated criticism and conspiracy theories proved too much and Francis shot back after particularly insulting comments by Monroe Miller, the county’s chief critic who even has a web site dedicated to his fulltime hobby of attacking county government officials.

“Mr. Miller has insinuated I have artificially propped up the numbers on behalf of the county. That is asinine, insidious and blatantly ignorant,” Francis said. “I would never do anything like that I don’t appreciate that. I would never do anything to undermine the taxpayers of Haywood County.”

SEE ALSO: Sales keep pace with county's new values

Commissioners have grown used to the public chastising and being dogged by a dedicated group of government watchdogs. Commissioners usually keep their cool, attempting to respond to the questions and accusations from critics. But this time, Commissioner Chairman Kirk Kirkpatrick, like Francis, drew a line.

“I can assure you the five of us (commissioners) have done nothing intentional against anybody in this county. Any insinuation there is something different going on is completely wrong, and to be honest, I didn’t appreciate it either,” Kirkpatrick said.

The battle of words continued at the county commissioners meeting again this week, however.

“Other than righteous indignation I have not heard anyone attempt to defend Francis’ numbers,” Miller said.

If the revaluation was so off, Francis responded, then why didn’t Miller appeal his property values?

“I think my numbers are so good he didn’t even appeal his,” Francis said.

Horace Edwards, another critic sounding the alarm over property values, got vehement at the county commissioners meeting this week over a warning letter his daughter got after failing to pay her property taxes. The letter threatened foreclosure if she didn’t pay. Edwards grew increasingly upset as he read it aloud.

Edwards called it “the most asinine and crappy thing I have ever heard tell of” and threatened to “sue the hell” out of the county, then pounded the podium.

The letter in fact was a form letter sent to everyone who hasn’t paid their property taxes. Along with foreclosure, the letter warns of garnishing wages or directly tapping the person’s bank account. Almost always, the property owner sets up a payment plan.

“I am in charge of collecting taxes,” Francis replied. “I am not going to apologize for doing my job.”

Kirkpatrick diligently keeps notes during public comments, and afterwards addresses issues brought up by the audience.

“Sometimes I wonder if by responding I don’t bring on more encouragement,” Kirkpatrick said this week, but then dove in anyway. “As for revaluation we did the very best we could.”


Class warfare

Some who saw their property values increase will have a hard time — to put it mildly — paying more in taxes.

Eddie Cabe who lives in Canton says he is one of those people. His $67,000 home in Canton went up to $125,000. But it is a 90-year-old “box” house as he calls it, lacking proper floor joists, no insulation in the walls, and pull strings for light switches.

Kirkpatrick said those are things the appraisers couldn’t have known about Cabe’s house, and that’s what the appeal process is designed for.

“There are 55,000 parcels of property. We can’t come inside and evaluate each one, all they can do is take the sales that have taken place and look at the house from the outside and compare it to those in the neighborhood and put the best price they can on it. The best fair price,” Kirkpatrick said.

Cabe, who came to the county commissioners meeting to share his plight, said it wasn’t fair for his house to go up, while those with half million homes saw a drop in value.

“It seems like the folks that got money and the bigger nicer houses, theirs went down,” Cabe said. “I think this is the thing that people in the community are so upset with. We can debate all day along about whether real estate went up a little bit or down a little bit. But there are still people like me.”

Horace Edwards of Cruso questioned how his average three-bedroom home went up by more than 50 percent when mountainside mansions dropped in value.

“That’s not fair and equitable,” Edwards said. “I don’t belong to the upper end and I don’t get into the gated communities.”

Cure said the reval has created class warfare.

“These county commissioners have cut their nose off to spite their face. The median- to low-income people in the county are seeing their prices raised. They are the registered voters here. The higher priced homes are owned by people who don’t even live here and vote there,” Cure said.

Cure’s camp is calling on the county to throw out the revaluation and instead keep using the 2006 values on the books. Under 2006 values, upper prices homes would continue shouldering the same share of the property tax burden rather than seeing it shifted to lower and median priced properties.

Commissioner Bill Upton said tossing out the new values and keeping 2006 values on the books wouldn’t be fair. People who saw their property values fall compared to five years ago — roughly half the county — don’t want to keep paying taxes on values that are now too high.

“If we went back to 2006 we would have just as many people upset,” Upton said.

Cure agreed on that point. Those with high-dollar homes who saw their values come down would be up in arms if this reval was thrown out and the 2006 values carried on.

“Now you have a county divided,” Cure said.

Kirkpatrick said going forward with the revaluation seemed like the fair and right thing to do.

“If we had waited, some of these folks would be stuck with 2006 values that were by far higher than what their new values are. We weren’t trying to be fair to one class or another, but to as a whole be fair to everyone and go ahead and reval,” Kirkpatrick said.



Property owners who disagree with their values can appeal — either an informal appeal with the county’s appraisal staff or a formal one before the quasi-judicial board of equalization and review.

The number of informal appeals this reval were nearly identical to the one in 2006, indicating dissatisfaction was about the same as it is every time the county tackles the mass appraisal, with 5,600 informal appeals compared to 5,500 last time.

But formal appeals are up by 20 percent over 2006.

Francis thinks the newspaper ad contributed to a rush of appeals just before the deadline. The day the newspaper ad came out, the county only had 600 formal appeals.

It grew to 1,800 just four days later.

That’s compared to about 1,500 appeals in the last revaluation in 2006, but nearly the same as the one before that in 2002.

Of course, some wait until the appeal deadline approaches, so the surge in the final appeal stage can’t all be chalked up to the ad. But he thinks a good number can.

“The appeals were extremely low until the advertisement hit the paper. A lot of people came in not knowing why they were appealing but they had the ad,” Francis said.

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