East Ward residents ask about dropping property values

Photo by Todd Luck- East Ward resident Marva Reid asks about reappraisal appeals at a town hall meeting last week.

East Ward residents ask about dropping property values
June 22
03:00 2017

County tax staff heard concerns East Ward residents have about their declining property values during this year’s property reappraisals at a town hall on June 15 at the Career Center on Highland Court.

While 70 percent of properties in the county-wide reappraisal saw value go up, many of the properties that still saw sharp decreases were in minority communities. City Council Member Derwin Montgomery, who is one of the owners of The Chronicle, invited Forsyth County Tax Accessor John Burgiss to the quarterly town hall meeting he holds for constituents. Montgomery said that though he has issues with the reappraisals, it was the process and not county staff he was questioning.

“I think they’re professional in doing their job in terms of doing the tax appraisal process,” said Montgomery. “I fundamentally believe that there are some challenges in the process in terms of how the process works.”

Burgiss gave a presentation on the reappraisal process, which is conducted every four years, and looks at the qualified sales in an area and the condition of the property. He said that the goal is to get them as close to fair market value as possible.

“We follow the real estate market, we don’t make it,” said Burgiss.

He said a weakness of any mass appraisal is that appraisers don’t go into homes unless it’s appealed, so they may not know all the rooms and repairs on the interior. He said that’s why anyone who feels his or her reappraisal value isn’t accurate should appeal. He said appeals give his staff an opportunity to learn more about the property.

Several residents didn’t understand why their homes lost value, oftentimes on a regular basis, and were weary of the appeals process.

“If you devalue most of the homes in the East Winston area, what would be the reason for filing an appeal?” said Marva Reid.

Burgiss assured them the majority of appeals do result in a change in value. Senior Tax Manager Nolan Lawson said that appeals are important because there’s a lot they don’t know, especially in areas with smaller homes that are worth less than $75,000 on average, which is often the case in the city’s older black neighborhoods. The county’s tax staff took appeals from residents after the meeting.

Informal appeals that were made to the tax office were at a 20-year low for this reappraisal season. Formal appeals can now be made to the Board of Equalization and Review (BER), a citizen committee that has the power to change the value of any property in the county.

Montgomery drafted a resolution, which was approved unanimously by the City Council, for the BER to examine the reappraisal process and its effect on minority neighborhoods. The board found that it did not have the authority to change the process, but did hear an overview on it and on two black neighborhoods the city had concerns about, while also offering to have tax staff give appeals talks like the one at the town hall and at Carl Russell Sr. Community Center on Wednesday.

Burgiss said that the BER essentially did what the city asked for, though Montgomery disagreed. Montgomery did say his discussions with Burgiss may result in better dialog between the city’s community development department and the county’s tax office so that appraisers are aware of homes that take part in city programs that provide funds for home repairs.

County Commissioner Fleming El-Amin was among the attendees. He encouraged residents there to get involved in the issue by lobbying state lawmakers to change the state statutes that set the appraisal methods.

Real estate value information with appeal forms can be found on an interactive map at Appeals are due by June 30.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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