12/03/08 — Duplin County commissioners adopt new tax valuation rates

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Duplin County commissioners adopt new tax valuation rates

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on December 3, 2008 1:46 PM

KENANSVILLE -- The Duplin County Board of Commissioners adopted new property tax values Monday, but the board made no promises about lowering the tax rate for next year to offset the increases that most property owners will see.

Commissioners have until June 30 to adopt a property tax rate. Property owners will receive their new real property assessed value notices sometime in February, officials said.

Meanwhile, tax foreclosure sales continue to increase in Duplin County.

Tax Appraiser Bob Pearson told commissioners Monday that the housing trend is looking worse every month. Houses are selling for up to 10 percent less than their original price, and sales are slower than normal, he added. Banks also are getting tough on home loans, and the only people who are looking for property are those who have cash in hand and are looking for a good deal, he said.

"Foreclosures are up, too," he told commissioners. "I was shocked when I saw that."

Pearson was referring to nine foreclosure sales that are scheduled for Dec. 18 on the steps at the county courthouse.

Still, Pearson said, most property tax values will be going up due to the reassessment, which is required by the state to be conducted at least every eight years.

"It's obvious we will need to make some adjustments downward," Pearson said Monday before recommending that the new values be adopted. Not all property values will increase to current market value. The value of small lots and residences will likely be set at 10-15 percent below the market value, Pearson said.

The board voted 5-1 to approve the new values, with Commissioner David Fussell dissenting.

Fussell said some tax bills are going to increase by as much as 500 percent.

"We've got serious, serious economic problems in this county that are going to hit in the next year," he said before making a motion to adopt a revenue-neutral budget.

When a tax rate is revenue neutral, it means the tax rate has been adjusted up or down to generate the exact same amount of tax revenue that the old values generated during the current year.

The vote on the revenue-neutral budget failed, 4-2, with new Commission Chairman Cary Turner voting with Fussell.

Fussell had made the motion earlier, but it died for lack of a second after Commissioner Zettie Williams suggested the board adopt the values first. Fussell deferred the motion until after the tax values were adopted.

The first-time commissioners discussed a revenue-neutral budget, Fussell said he didn't think it was right to take people's property by taxation.

"It's important to make sure the citizens know we're not going to tax them out of their homes," he said.

Commissioner Reginald Wells said some tax bills would go up anyway, even if the board adopted a revenue-neutral budget.

"Many of us have chosen to live where we live," Wells noted. "Mine will go up 35 to 40 percent."