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Durham tax assessments come out this week. What you need to know

Downtown Durham and nearby housing developments continue to grow outward towards Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, bottom left corner. However, the church has been land banking, keeping property in the hands of those at risk of being displaced, over the years.
Downtown Durham and nearby housing developments continue to grow outward towards Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, bottom left corner. However, the church has been land banking, keeping property in the hands of those at risk of being displaced, over the years. jwall@newsobserver.com

About 110,000 letters are being mailed to Durham County taxpayers this week, telling them what the government says their property is worth.

It’s too soon to tell how the new tax values will affect tax bills. You may end up paying more in property taxes as a result of the tax assessments, but you may also pay less. The Durham City Council and the Durham County Board of Commissioners will set their property tax rates in June for the coming fiscal year, and tax bills will be sent out later this summer.

The state requires counties to do reappraisals every eight years. Durham County’s last appraisal was three years ago, but the county is doing it again now “to help ensure the county’s tax burden is distributed equitably based on current property values,” according to the tax administration office.

“If a property value is changing a lot in one area but not another area, then the tax burden is skewed,” without frequent reappraisals, said Teresa Hairston, interim Durham County tax administrator.

How it works

For the past two years, tax appraisers have visited every property in Durham County and evaluated the market rate, including by looking at nearby home sales.

“The purpose of reappraisal is to reset property at its market value, the most probable price a property could be sold for,” Hairston said.

Tax assessors have reviewed 12,000 property sales over the past two years. Hairston said most neighborhoods in Durham are dense enough to compare sale prices of similar-sized homes nearby, but in rural areas they have to look in a wider area for comparisons.

How much will I pay?

“There’s no way of knowing,” Hairston said.

“We can’t tell somebody exactly how much, because the bill is based on the rate and the value,” she said. “What we’re looking at is the value of the property. The tax rate is a function of the governing bodies.”

The city and county will set their tax rates after holding public hearing and taking final votes on their budgets in June. If you live in the city, you pay both city and county taxes.

The biggest change in Durham has occurred downtown, but Hairston didn’t have comparisons yet of how much property values increased there versus elsewhere.

“Of course we all know the downtown area has had significant growth, so of course the values there have changed,” she said.

Downtown growth helped the city avoid a tax increase last year, though the county raised its tax rate.

How do I appeal?

If you disagree with your newtax value, you can appeal it.

“If you’re comparing your house to your neighbor’s house, you’ve got to make sure they are comparable properties,” Hairston said. You can appeal by bringing tax assessors photographs and other information about issues with your house, like foundation problems or work that needs to be done.

Hairston said the tax value letters include information about setting up a meeting, if property owners want one, with an appraiser between Feb. 18 and March 1 to review their assessment.

“A lot of people will look at the their tax value and say, ‘This can’t be right’ ... and they can compare sale prices right there in their neighborhood,” Haiston said. “They can make a determination whether or not they want to file an appeal.”

When do I have to pay my property tax?

Bills will go out in late July and early August, and are due Sept. 1, but you have until Jan. 5, 2020 to pay it without incurring interest.

When will the next tax assessment be?

2023.

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