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Cost of Growth: Impact on property taxes

We found out how Buncombe County's budget has changed in recent years.


Last year, Buncombe County re-appraised property values, and many people saw increases in their tax bills.

Scott Holmes is one of those homeowners.

He thought he got a great deal back on his house in 2013, until he saw his new, higher property tax bill.

"Fifty percent is 50 percent, it's a pretty big jump," Holmes said.

In 2017, the county's property tax rate dropped from 0.604 to 0.539.

Now, Holmes wonders what the extra money he's paying is paying for.

"If values have gone up this much, why haven't rates come down this much? So, where are we spending the money? Where is it going to? Yeah, that absolutely ran through my mind," Holmes said.

News 13 took the question to Buncombe County Tax Assessor Keith Miller.

Miller said his office adjusts the rates to bring in only what the county needs for each year's budget.

"As the taxable value increases, as the market increases, it doesn't necessarily mean that the county will collect more tax. The county needs to collect the amount they need to cover their budget," Miller explained.

News 13 requested the numbers and found that over the past three years, the value of the property tax base in Buncombe County has increased 26 percent.

Over the same time, the county's budget has only gone up about 14 percent.

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Miller said each home is impacted differently by changing rates, and while some saw a jump in their bill, others did not.

"I think, over the past few years, we're seeing an 8-10 percent appreciation in residential values. So, that's good. I think most economists would tell you in a residential market, that's good growth," Miller said.

But is it good for homeowners?

County offiicials said the median property tax bill in 2016 was $1,188.07. Last year, it jumped to $1,307.25, a gain of about 10 percent.

Miller said rising property values don't always add up to more money for the county. But, he admits, new homes help Buncombe County's bottom line.

"In between re-appraisal years, we are only seeing the growth for new construction. So, whatever that growth is that we're adding into taxable value, that's the extra value, that's the extra revenue that the county would realize and then make a determination on how to adjust the rate based on that," Miller said.

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The county's annual report this year shows the increased budget paid for higher salaries and benefits, along with more operating expenditures and more funding for public safety.

News 13 also found that despite complaints, Buncombe's tax rate is the 18th lowest out of North Carolina's 100 counties.

"Yeah, there was a lot of sticker shock. But, I guess, ultimately, I know that Buncombe County rates could be worse. I'm from Charlotte, so rates are worse there," Holmes said.

News 13 also checked in with Haywood County.

Tax assessor Mike Matthews said while the county hasn't seen the big population boom yet, rising values on second homes and retirement properties are helping the county.

"I think the county is in pretty good standing as far as financially. Our collection rate is up higher, and we are projecting higher than we were last year. So, that should help them budget wise," Matthews said.

We want to know how Asheville's growth is affecting you. Email us at I-team@wlos.com with your point of view.

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