Hurricane Florence delays Pender tax revaluations

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Damage from storm prompts numerous property value changes

BURGAW — Pender County was hit hard by Hurricane Florence, a blow that is still rocking the local tax office.

The county was in the midst of a property reassessment when the storm hit, and notices of properties’ new values, which typically get mailed to taxpayers in January, have not yet gone out. The delay, according to Pender County Tax Assessor Justian Pound, is the result of county assessors having to review fairly significant damages to about 10 percent of the nearly 50,000 individual parcels in the county.

There is also the challenge, he said, about establishing processes and procedures for evaluating damages to structures of which the tax office is not yet aware.

Pound last week said that work is wrapping up, and taxpayers should be on the lookout for their new assessment notifications by about the middle of March.

Florence has kept Pound and his staff busier than usual accounting for the damage the hurricane afflicted, and the workload isn’t likely to ease once those notices go in the mail. The appeals process also promises to be lively, and will no doubt last longer than might be the case during a hurricane-free reassessment.

“Technically, anyone can appeal a property assessment until the board of equalization adjourns for the year,” Pound said. “There is no hard deadline (for adjournment), and we haven’t even yet established the dates for 2019. And the statute allows us to push the adjournment dates out further than typical on years of re-evaluation.”

This year, there will be a larger “informal appeal session,” Pound said, where adjustments could be made without a formal appearance before the board of equalization — hopefully simplifying and speeding up the process for everyone.

Reassessment appeals are available to those whose homes were damaged by Florence and those who escaped the storm’s fury. For those who want to appeal the reassessed value of their damaged Pender County property, bring all appropriate documentation with you, Pound advises — contractors’ estimates for repair, insurance numbers, photographs.

“The more data you can bring to the appeal, the better,” Pound said, easing the way for everyone involved to be looking at the same set of facts.

New Hanover and Brunswick county tax officials also are still dealing with the lingering impacts from Florence.

Allison Snell, New Hanover’s tax administrator, said 2019’s assessed property tax values, which will mailed out to property owners around August with payments due by early January 2020, were set Jan. 1.

While many property owners have let her office know of damage from the storm and whether it could change their property valuations, Snell said the clock is ticking for those who have yet to reach out to the county.

“If your property was damaged, but it was repaired and fixed by the end of December, there’s nothing you need to do because it was back to 100 percent as of Jan. 1, which is when the values are set,” she said. “But if you still have damage and you have yet to notify us, definitely notify us, because by the time we send the tax bills go out, it will be too late.”

Like Pender County, Brunswick County was in the middle of a reassessment when Florence hit.

Tax Administrator Jeff Niebauer said the new valuations were mailed out last week, and he expect to receive some appeals over the next few weeks.

He also said any Brunswick property owners concerned about how damage from Florence could impact their property value should contact his office sooner rather than later, with the county’s board of equalization and review set to adjourn on May 7 — the last day to appeal a 2019 assessed tax value.

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