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By Connie Leinbach
Note: The Hyde County Commissioners’ monthly meeting will take place today in the Hyde County Government Center Multi-Use Room (30 Oyster Creek Rd, Swan Quarter) and in the Ocracoke School Commons Area (120 Schoolhouse Rd,, Ocracoke) via teleconferencing equipment beginning at 7 p.m. . The public is invited to attend.
While Hyde County expects to raise the tax rate for the 2017-2018 budget, Ocracoke property owners who recently received lower property valuations may have lower tax bills this year, but others will have to make up the difference by paying more. This topic will be discussed at the May Hyde County Commissioners meeting tonight.
That’s the upshot of the state-mandated revaluation completed last year.
As a result of a total loss of property valuation county-wide, the property tax rate will go up by several cents this year, said Hyde County Manager Bill Rich.
“The county will collect the same tax dollars, but people will pay more or less according to their tax value,” he said. “That’s the ugly part of it, and it isn’t fair.”
Rich will present his budget tonight (May 1) at the commissioners meeting that will begin at 7 p.m. instead of its usual time of 6 p.m. via teleconferencing in the Ocracoke School Commons room.
He expects the tax rate to increase from the current rate of $.0064 per $100,000 of assessed valuation to $.0071 or $.0072.
County property owners received letters in February about their new valuations. Prior to the commissioners regular monthly meeting, the county’s Board of Equalization Review will meet at 6 p.m. to hear disputes from the new tax revaluations property owners received in February.
Counties in North Carolina are mandated to conduct periodic county-wide tax revaluations, but the only choice they have is how often these are done–between one to seven years.
Residents had the chance to dispute their revaluation within 30 days of receipt of the February letters.
That deadline has passed and the commissioners tonight will hear whatever ones were submitted in dispute. A second Equalization Review hearing will be from 5 to 6 p.m. May 8.
In round figures, the total property tax value in Hyde County is about $1 billion, Rich explained. After revaluation, the total valuation is down to about $900 million.
“We lost about $100 million from the economy just in evaluations going down in the last seven years,” Rich said. “That’s 10 percent.”
The county now receives $6.5 million in property tax income. So, the tax rate increase will enable the county to still collect that $6.5 million.
By law, the county cannot compensate for the new valuation any more than the $6.5 million it already collects now from property taxes.
A decrease in state and federal government support in social services, education, health care adds to the county budget puzzle.
“And they expect us to make this up,” he said.
Moreover, property owners who reach the age of 65 can get placed on a lower property tax scale, depending on if their income meets a certain threshold.
“We’re losing millions from that,” he said. “We seem to be becoming an older county demographically.”
Last year’s balanced budget was $15,250,616.
When Rich was hired five years ago, he said he was told he could not raise taxes during his tenure.
So, he will present a balanced budget, but the county commissioners have discretion to raise property taxes further, if they want.
“I’m maintain what I’m spending; but income is decreasing from things out of our control,” he said. “When you have less money coming in from areas out of your control and less income from property devaluations, that’s a problem.”
As for income, Rich said the county has received increased sales tax revenues every year.
“There’s also a lot of new construction in Hyde, plus huge hunting mansions on the mainland being built and that helps the income we’re losing from demographics,” he said.
The the commissioners will have a workshop on the budget May 8 after the second tax equalization hearing. Islanders can attend all of these meetings in the Community Center via teleconferencing, but tonight’s teleconferencing will be in the Ocracoke School because the Ocracoke Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament (May 3 to 5) will be setting up today in the Community Center.
The revaluation, conducted last year, cost the county a little over $300,000.
“I hate property revaluation,” Rich said. A real estate developer by trade, Rich said property valuations should be left up to the market.
“The market will adjust itself over time,” he said.