Average values increase 1.9 percent

The average property value in Catawba County went up about 2 percent for the current revaluation, but that doesn't mean the values are final.
The appeals process for property values is under way after the 2010 property values were mailed Nov. 15 to residents.
"We allow taxpayers to make an appointment and sit down with our appraisal staff to discuss the revaluation," said Catawba County Tax Administrator Mark Logan.
Property owners can contact the tax office at (828) 465-8436 to schedule an appointment with the appraisal staff. Residents can also use the tear-off form on the new-value notice to mail to the tax office. Logan said owners can include with the tear-off form any documents to demonstrate what they think are their homes' correct values.
"We have had a steady amount of phone calls," Logan said. "It's consistent (with the previous revaluation)."
Property values are determined by buyers and sellers on the open market in Catawba County. This market value isn't determined by property appraisers, but by the people who buy and sell property in the area.
The Schedule of Values is a set of guidelines for use during the revaluation process to ensure valuation is fair and uniform throughout county properties.
The countywide property revaluation doesn't necessarily mean an increase in taxes. An increase or decrease in taxes depends on how much a resident's property changed since the last revaluation and how much the tax rate changes.
The Catawba County Board of Commissioners will set the county tax rate during the budgeting process for fiscal year 2011-12. Once the tax rate is set, residents will receive the first bill reflective of the new rate in July.
The current tax rate in Catawba County is 53.5 cents per $100 valuation.
The number of foreclosures in Catawba County, however, doesn't have a direct effect on property values. Foreclosures aren't considered "open, arm's-length transactions," Logan said, meaning that the property owner is usually under compulsion to sell the property and isn't representative of normal buying and selling conditions.
The appraisal staff does consider a foreclosure's impact on other homes in the vicinity of the foreclosed property, Logan said.
The current appeals process is informal and isn't required by general statues.
Residents who filed an appeal during the informal process will be notified of their appeal result by mail in March.
The first mandated appeals process will be held in April. Residents will present their appeals to the Board of Equalization and Review, which is a five-member board comprised of citizens with experience in real estate, Logan said.
Individuals appealing their property value before the Board of Equalization and Review should provide information about why they think their appraised value is incorrect, what they think the correct value should be and any documents to prove their arguments.
The last property revaluation in the county occurred in 2007. A revaluation cycle of four years or less eliminates revenue loss that occurs when public service companies receive an automatic reduction in the fourth and seventh years following the last revaluation, if the assessment level drops less than 90 percent. According to the county website, Catawba County lost more than $2 million in revenue from 1995-1998. More frequent revaluations prevents this revenue loss.