Dorchester might delay property tax reassessment
BY BO PETERSEN and DAVID SLADE
SUMMERVILLE — Property tax reassessment might well be delayed a year until 2015 in Dorchester County. Whether that’s good news is in the eye of the property holder.
The last reassessment was completed in 2009, as property values crashed in the recession.
Values now are recovering, but that doesn’t mean property owners will see their taxes go up.
Reassessments are meant to redistribute the property tax burden by updating real estate values. Properties that gained the most value since the last reassessment, relative to others in the county, should end up with higher tax bills, while those that lagged behind get lower bills.
Counties are required to lower their tax rates when reassessments increase the tax base, so if every property increased in value by the same amount, no one’s tax bill should rise.
Also, under changes to state law approved in 2006, the assessed value of a property can’t increase by more than 15 percent from one reassessment to another, unless the ownership has changed. That limit eliminates some of the large changes in tax bills that reassessments used to bring.
County staff requested earlier this week to delay the 2014 reassessment, saying they wanted more time to implement a new computer-assisted “mass appraisal” system. Council approved the delay in a preliminary vote.
Staff didn’t have time to perform data collection and test the system, said County Administrator Jason Ward.
“If we were going to start (2014) reassessment, we’d have to start now,” said Wayne Welch, county tax assessor.
He doesn’t have enough staff to do that while installing the new system, he said.
“We don’t want million-dollar mobile home (assessments) going out,” he said, a reference to recent problems with the Charleston County tax bills.
The vote was 6-1. Council Chairman Larry Hargett opposed the delay, saying that he has a career’s experience with data collection and didn’t understand why it should take the tax office two years to do the job.
Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on Twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.