Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston and the Democratic majority of the board have big plans for the county that have to be paid for somehow.
Alston said this week, that one way to generate the needed money will be by keeping the county’s tax rate at the same level when the county goes through an upcoming revaluation of all county property in 2022.
Guilford County is on a five-year reappraisal cycle, which means that every five years county tax officials update the values on all land, houses and buildings in the county in an attempt to make those values better reflect actual market values.
An increase in the value of the tax base generates more revenue if the tax rate stays the same.
Guilford County’s most recent reappraisal year was 2017 and there’s another one planned for next year.
Alston said this week that the estimates he’s heard from staff mean that Guilford County is likely to raise an additional $50 million after the revaluation, with the tax rate remaining the same. The chairman said that will be a way the county can fund projects without a need to raise the rate.
When the Republican Guilford County commissioners were in control of the board – as they were for the eight years from 2012 to 2020 – they never raised the county’s tax rate and, when a revaluation period came around, that conservative board voted to lower the tax rate to maintain a “revenue neutral” status. That is, the shift down in the property tax rate meant the county still had the same amount of money coming in from property taxes after the revaluation.
Alston acknowledged that, if the tax rate remains the same after a revaluation, the county will have more money coming in but he said it’s not a “tax increase” since the tax rate remains the same.
Some of the past and present Republican commissioners on the board will likely take issue with those semantics. Some argue that if the rate is not adjusted after a revaluation to the “revenue neutral” status then it is a tax increase even if the tax rate stays the same.
The Guilford County Tax Department offers the following summary of the revaluation process: “Guilford County appraisers review and analyze information including comparable sales in your neighborhood. Reappraisals are not only mandated by North Carolina General Statutes, but are necessary to maintain equitable and uniform property values. Reappraisal tools include county maps, aerial photography, street level images, sales analysis, field visits, and other methods to gather data used in determining market value. Guilford County conducts reappraisals entirely in-house by appraisers familiar with the local market.”