By Jordan Green
An official panel tasked with hearing appeals to property tax valuations voted today in a unanimous decision to restore $2.5 million to dozens of properties in Monticello Park, an upper-middle income neighborhood that is home to a number of prominent African-American civic leaders such as Winston-Salem Mayor Pro Tem Vivian Burke, along with retired educators and business owners.
The Forsyth County Board of Equalization and Review approved the recommendation to make blanket changes to 51 properties at the recommendation of county Tax Assessor John Burgiss. Many of the properties are larger and newer homes located either on Cumberland Road or nearby. Burgiss said staff determined that three sales in 2012 and 2011 that had been used to set values for the neighborhood were not representative of the houses recommended for adjustment.
The 51 properties affected by the blanket change include homes owned by Jim Shaw, a retired tire dealership franchisee and nonprofit executive who is Mayor Allen Joines’ reelection co-chair and the widow of the late Judge Roland Hayes. The previous valuations assigned to the properties represented a 71.2 percent decrease from 2009, while the new valuations reduce the blow to a loss of only 39.4 percent.
“These are extremely large changes,” board member William V. White said. “They’re based on lack of sales. I guess the concern is, what other neighborhoods do we have the same situation that we’re not going to know until we receive the appeals and it’s too late to do anything about the remainder of the properties?”
Burgiss said staff looked intently at 14 neighborhoods where residents expressed concern about severe drops in valuation and was still open to making further changes.
“May I suggest a potentially radical action to go further into that?” White continued. “Whenever there’s so few sales, there’s a situation where those sales may not reflect values even though even though all rules say that they do. What about the concept of asking the appraisers in the field the question of, ‘Do you think that this work adequately reflects the values out there, notwithstanding the methodology that we use?’ The answer is either a yes or a no. If it’s a no, then I suggest going back again and looking at the neighborhood, do what you can, and maybe you can expand the number of sales used outside the neighborhood.”
The changes made today follow a decision last week by the board to restore more than a $1 million in values resulting from individual appeals in several east-side neighborhoods that were flagged for review because of community outcry, including Monticello Park, Dreamland Park, Castleshire, Slater Park and Shalimar/Salem Village.
White publicly urged property owners to continue to file appeals through the statutory deadline of June 28 so that the board can get a sense of whether further blanket changes are needed.
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