Thursday, May 3, 2012

Should residents participate in revaluation review?

County Manager Harry Jones told the Mecklenburg Board of Commissioners this morning that he will recommend that the board create a citizens' review panel to watch over the independent audit of Mecklenburg's property revaluation.

The board voted for that audit Tuesday, and on Wednesday, commissioner Bill James suggested in an email to Jones that a group of citizens be appointed "to work with the auditor providing the information they have collected about the flaws in the revaluation process." James recommended that each of the commissioners nominate a Mecklenburg resident to be on the committee.

Such committees have been formed before to help tackle county issues, James told the editorial board - including a "blue ribbon" committee that tackled the size and makeup of the board of commissioners in the 1990s.

It's a good idea, with some caveats. As we said Monday, the 2011 revaluation has prompted some legitimate questions and concerns. The effect of foreclosures was not treated the same across the county, and pockets of the county were assessed values that seemed out of whack with the market. County residents need to have faith in the reval - and the tax system it helps support.

A citizens review panel works, however, only if the commissioners appoint responsibly. That means level-headed citizens who approach the assignment with a discerning but fair skepticism - not angry residents inclined to dismiss any explanation that doesn't fit a predetermined agenda. We'd also like to see appointed members with relevant backgrounds - real estate, of course, but also accounting and knowledge of research methodology.

Most important, the purpose of the audit and citizens' review board - and how they work with each other - should be made clear. We want a review that determines if the 2011 reval was equitable and reflected true values of Mecklenburg properties. We want the review board to have access to the research and input into the process - but not to the point where it becomes meddlesome and disruptive.

A note: Citizens already can have some say in the reval process as appointed members of the Board of Equalization and Review, which hears taxpayers' appeals on assessed values. The issue at hand, however, is more systemic. The county needs to know what, if anything, is wrong with the revaluation process. An auditor is a good step toward finding those answers. A citizens' review panel provides an extra layer of comfort.

Peter St. Onge

8 comments:

Veronica said...

"and pockets of the county were assessed values"

"and pockets of the county where? assessed values"

HDLadee said...

Well, if old Harry has it his way, those citizens that participate will not be the ones footing the bill. Just saying....

Redlight said...

Can't wait to see George's appointment!

everalert said...

After hearing both Harry Jones and Jim Barrett of the council of equalization and review dismiss out of hand citizens' concerns about the revaluation and adamantly oppose an audit, I have no faith whatsoever that any "review" overseen by Mr. Jones or his staff will be INDEPENDENT. I thought both their behavior at the BOCC meeting was self serving and dismissive of the taxpayers for whom they are supposed to "work." Actually, I found them insulting.

everalert said...

And, given Harry Jones' record of intimidating anyone who is critical of him (to the point of contacting the taxpayer's employer), why would we taxpayers believe that he would not intimidate an "independent" review to the point where the reviewer would find nothing critical of the county's performance on the revaluation? This "review" should not have been placed in the hands of Harry Jones or anyone who works for him.

TexGirl said...

I thought Charlotte was a Democrat town. Why are people complaining about paying more taxes? Isn't that what they want?

Reggie Mantle said...

The BOCC's first order of business must be to restore faith in county government.

Off the record most of us working for or with the county acknowledge that starts by not renewing Jones's contract.

everalert said...

Unfortunately, he'll be with us till he dies. He's intimidated the BOCC to the point that they are scared not to renew his contract. That is how he got this job to begin with--threatening to play the race card if it was not given to him. A horrible excuse for a man; a worse excuse for a "public servant."