Ministers join fight for new reappraisal process

Photo by Tevin Stinson– Dr. Dennis Leach, a member of the Minsters’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity (MCWSV) is adamant that residents will need a civil rights attorney to reverse the results of the 2017 tax reappraisal.

Ministers join fight for new reappraisal process
May 25
05:00 2017

The Minsters’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity (MCWSV) is prepared to do whatever it takes to prove the tax evaluation process used by the Forsyth County Tax Administration to evaluate property is unjust and unfit to residents who live in predominantly minority communities. 

After attending a town hall hosted by state Rep. Evelyn Terry last month to discuss community concerns, the group of local minsters, clergy, and faith-based organizations was called into action when several community members complained about the results of this year’s tax reviews.

The county does reappraisals every four years using qualified real estate sales in an area and the condition of the properties to estimate their value. This year, 70 percent of residents saw their property values increase, but those who live in in predominately black communities saw major decreases. As reported in the April 20 edition of The Chronicle, one resident said his home depreciated by $19,000.

“When I went to that meeting, there were citizens there who were effected,” said Rev. Dennis Leach, member of the Ministers’ Conference Social Justice committee. “After hearing their legitimate grievances, I knew we had to take a stand in support of these people.”

Leach, the pastor of Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church, said as the complaints continued to echo from dozens of residents in attendance, county tax adjuster assessor John Burgiss provided little help for the constituents of the 71st District, and he showed even less concern. The Minsters’ Conference is no stranger to the fight against the tax reappraisal process.   

“It was like a broken record. He just kept saying the market, the market, the market. He seemed to be uncaring, unconcerned, and unconscious to the pain caused by this evaluation in this community,” Leach said. “From our perspective, a marketing tool is being used to disenfranchise a specific community. To me, it appears the county is using surgical like precession to affect a certain area.”

Since that meeting, the City Council unanimously passed a resolution asking for an evaluation of the reappraisal process by the Board of Equalization and Review, which reviews appeals to the reappraisal process. The resolution by East Ward Council Member Derwin Montgomery argues that properties are being sold for below market value and then rented to tenants at a higher amount. It also asks that “lease value” be included in the reappraisal process.

Although he is in full support of the resolution and the City Council’s decision to take a closer look at the process used by the Board of Equalization and Review, Leach said, “I’m glad they are taking a position but talking is one thing. We really need more than meetings and talking. At the end of the day, I believe ultimately that we’re going to need an attorney.”

He said, “This is a disaster. We have to be willing to put some skin in the game.”

Earlier this month, the Ministers’ Conference sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development voicing their concerns. The letter signed by Leach, social justice committee chairman Bishop Todd Fulton, and local NAACP President Alvin Carlisle reads in part: “It is our belief that the Forsyth County Tax Administration is in violation of a provision of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Housing Act of 1968 which states: No one may take any of the following actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap “Discriminate in appraising property.”

“With a stroke of a pen instead of a gun, Forsyth County, using the tool of the market, has essentially robbed largely African American communities of its wealth.”

According to Rev. Leach, the letter has since been forwarded to the Winston-Salem Human Relations Department and they are waiting for a response. During an interview last week, he said, “I remain adamant that we’re going to need a civil rights attorney.

“The letter that we wrote is a call for justice,” Leach said. “We want the people to know that we feel their pain and they aren’t out there alone. There are people and organizations out here who are willing to fight.”


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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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