07/07/08 — Tax rates stay same in Duplin, Wayne

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Tax rates stay same in Duplin, Wayne

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on July 7, 2008 1:46 PM

Wayne and Duplin counties were among the state's 75 counties that did not increase their tax rates for fiscal year 2008-09.

Wayne's tax rate is 76.4 cents per $100 valuation, while Duplin's is 79 cents. There are 23 counties with tax rates higher than Wayne's, while there are 17 counties with rates higher than Duplin's.

Tax rates in surrounding counties include Sampson, 84.5 cents up 3.5 cents from 81 cents; Lenoir, 84 cents; and Johnston, 78 cents.

Pitt and Wilson counties just completed their revaluations. Pitt's old rate was 71 cents per $100 valuation. The rate would have to have been lowered to 63.82 cents per $100 valuation to be revenue neutral. However, the rate approved by the county was 66.5 cents reflecting an increase of 2.68 cents.

Wilson's old rate was 76 cents. A rate of 68 cents would have been required to be revenue neutral. The approved rate is 73 cents for an increase of five cents.

According to the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, 25 counties increased taxes -- the lowest number to do so since 1998-99 when taxes were increased in 20 counties.

In 11 counties, the increases followed property revaluation.

Six counties actually reduced their rates, two after completing revaluation.

Scotland County, southwest of Cumberland County, has the highest tax rate at $1.02 cents, down from $1.06. Carteret County on the North Carolina coast has the lowest rate, 23 cents.

Wayne County is scheduled for revaluation in 2011.

Duplin County has been working on its revaluation for the past 18 months. Any effects of that process will be reflected in next year's budget.

Revaluation is based on an eight-year cycle although counties do have an option to conduct one every four or six years.

A bill pending in the General Assembly would put revaluation on a four-year cycle.

While that move might benefit the larger, faster-growing counties, it will place a financial burden on others including Wayne County, said county Manager Lee Smith.

However, it is possible that an amendment to the bill would mean that Wayne County would not be required to conduct the revaluation every four years.

Alan Lumpkin of the county tax office said that originally the bill would have required across-the-board revaluations every four years. The amendment ties the process to the county's sales ratio.

Lumpkin said the sales ratio is a percentage derived by comparing selling price to tax value. Wayne County's ratio normally runs in the mid-80 percent range meaning the two values are closer together.

The four-year cycle would be triggered once a county's sales ratio hits 70 percent.

Currently, it costs the county about $1.2 million to conduct the revaluation every eight years. Cutting the cycle to every four years would force the county to hire additional staff adding from $400,000 to $500,000 to the budget, Smith said.

The additional costs associated with a four-year cycle would not be economically feasible for Wayne County, Smith and Lumpkin said.

Duplin County Manager Mike Aldridge said such a move would have little impact on Duplin because of a lack of growth in the county.

"We are in the process of wrapping it (revaluation) up," Aldridge said. "We should have the new values within the next six months."

Not a lot of change from the last revaluation seven years ago is expected.

"We have not had a lot of growth," Aldridge said. "We don't expect a lot of (property) appreciation. It (revaluation) is a reflection of the market."

He said mobile homes accounted for most of any housing growth the county has experienced. The one exception is the upscale River Landing community near Wallace, he said.

The county has experienced some agricultural growth, too.

However, the swine and poultry houses built in the 1990s have depreciated, but the value of the newer ones should be close to their construction values, he said.

Further complicating Duplin County's tax picture is an ongoing mediation between commissioners and board of education over local school funding.

If the issue cannot be resolved, it could end up in Duplin County Superior Court. Should a ruling go against commissioners, a judge could force the county to increase taxes to fund the school system.