Refunds for EVERYONE: Mecklenburg [bureau, Demo] -crats learn MATH IS HARD





Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have had it rough.  Charlotte got the — ahem — privilege of hosting the Low-Information Traveling Circus (a/k/a the DNC)  this past year.   Charlotte’s city manager has described his town as being “in decline.”  Charlotte retained its title in 2012 as the highest taxed locality in North Carolina.  The Queen City’s city council voted — in secret — to double the food tax to pay for renovations to Jerry Richardson’s football stadium.   Now, it’s become clear that Mecklenburg County seriously screwed up the 2011 revaluation — overcharging scores and scores of residents.  What’s making this into a real story is the bureaucrats and their Democrat politico allies balking at giving taxpayers their money back.  Our friends at PunditHouse have been on top of this since November:

 … [P]otentially thousands of homeowners countywide had their pockets picked, resulting in their being taxed on wrongly assessed property values.

When evidence of serious flaws in the revaluation process grew increasingly evident, however, county staff’s initial response was “excuses, obfuscation, denial, and arrogance,” said Commissioner Karen Bentley, a Republican whose district includes the north Mecklenburg town of Cornelius where reval problems and revolution have burned bright.

“The 2011 revaluation was not transparent, efficient, nor deserving of the public’s trust,” Bentley said. “Now we also know it was not equitable.”

The reval audit, which was conducted by Pearson’s Appraisal Services, found flaws in nearly 75 percent of homes in 52 neighborhoods with the fastest-rising values; among 151 randomly chosen neighborhoods, the audit found that at least 15 had major errors and 49 had minor ones, resulting in properties that were both overvalued as well as undervalued.


“They spent a year telling the public everything was fine and that it was all in their heads,” Republican Commissioner Bill James said of the county manager and his staff. “I believe that public confidence in the county is at such a low point that many will be suspicious if existing county staff controls the process or supervises it. How can we expect them to solve a problem that they denied existed?”

Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour amplified that sentiment.

“I don’t think we can have the same captain that steered the Titanic into the iceberg be the same captain that’s going to steer this ship,” Ridenhour said of fixing the reval process and providing justice for taxpayers.

Estimates peg the cost at $180,000 to identify and resolve flaws in countywide properties, outside the smaller 15-percent sample already tagged in the Pearson’s audit, with the process taking about three months to complete. Hiring an outside company to fix any properties found to be significantly overvalued or undervalued could take upwards of a year and cost between $1.5 million to $2.5 million.

“It’s going to take a lot of time and it’s going to take a lot of money and effort. But can you really put a price tag on faith in your local elected officials or your local government?” said Ridenhour, a Republican. “I don’t think you can put a price tag on that. So if it means we need to take more time, we take more time. If it means we have to spend a few more dollars to get it right, then we need to spend a few more dollars to make sure we get it right.”


Some commissioners, though, are already balking at the notion of redoing the flawed reval or providing refunds for abused taxpayers, pressing the premise that it would be overly complicated and too difficult to obtain the required authority.

“It always interests me when my colleagues politicize what is obviously a flawed process,” said Democrat Commissioner George Dunlap, one of three commissioners, along with Democrats Dumont Clarke and Vilma Leake, who originally opposed seeking an independent reval review. “They do that to get great cheers and raise hopes and aspirations about what might happen.

“For those who aspire to get refunds, I’m not saying it’s not possible, but consider all the implications,” Dunlap said. “If tax values are high in Cornelius that means the Cornelius [town] board received dollars that would be refunded as well; that means Huntersville received dollars that would be refunded as well. Because all of this money supports these various towns.”

The government, in other words, should be able to  keep the money it fleeced from taxpayers.

Democrat Commissioner Jennifer Roberts also noted her concerns about “putting forth expectations of refunds” when there were legal and myriad other difficulties still to be addressed, including how any potential reval revisions would impact the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg’s six smaller towns.

James tacked in the exact opposite direction.

“We need to specifically say the 2011 revaluation is screwed up and it’s our job as commissioners to fix it and we’re going to give refunds to the people who deserve it,” James said. “The public deserves tax refunds.” …

Fast forward to this week.   Mecklenburg legislators are cautioning their constituents that it may take 2-3 more years for them to see any refunds:

… The refunds would have to be delayed until Mecklenburg County “cleans up” a property database that hasn’t been updated in 17 years, Tarte said.

That would mean taxpayers overbilled by the 2011 revaluation could be owed four to five years of refunds.

“There’d be some large refunds,” {Senator Jeff] Tarte said. “Something would have to be worked out so the county doesn’t take such a big hit all at once.”

Later Tuesday, after hearing from more angry property owners, Mecklenburg commissioners unanimously supported a motion that supports the “concept” of refunding property owners overbilled in 2011 and 2012 because of the revaluation.


Because revaluations are governed by state law, the county needs legislative permission to restore the database, set new values on properties and provide refunds.

Hopefully, quick action will be taken to give these poor folks in Mecklenburg the money unfairly confiscated from them by tax collectors.   The government has the right to come after you if you’ve been given more than your fair share of government funds.  (See the recent unemployment insurance legislation.)  We should be able to get our money back when the bureaucrats screw up and take more than their fair share.