In late 2014, just after joining the SOG, the NCDOR included me in the initial discussions among assessors about North Carolina’s reappraisal standards. This blog post includes some of the thoughts and questions that I shared with the group at that time. Please keep in mind that this post is written informally, from my perspective during late 2014. I was discussing with the committee, mainly through emails, whether the assessment system our taxpayers deserve was being delivered. On the other side of an inadequate reappraisal, I wasn’t sure our lawmakers in Raleigh would accept an excuse of, “We weren’t given the needed resources”. I’ll refer again back to this related blog post on ways to request what is needed.
Try this online exercise. Go to Chapter 105 of the North Carolina General Statutes. Here’s a link. Once there, most browsers will allow a search feature. A common way to search in many software applications is to press the <Ctrl> key +F. Now search all of Chapter 105 for “tax administrator”. It doesn’t exist. But there are lots of tax administrators in North Carolina, right? Now search all of Chapter 105 for “tax supervisor”. The tax supervisor is referenced 9 times in the Machinery Act. And if you read the context of those references, there are a few important roles involved there. How many counties have a tax supervisor to fulfill these roles?
There has been a great deal of interest in the distribution of local sales tax revenue in North Carolina in the past few years. I will admit that as a scholar of local sales tax policy and effects, it has been an interesting time to be in the state (and made me much more popular!). Not surprisingly, I have been having a lot of conversations with people across the state about SB 126, so I thought I would put some of my thoughts down on proverbial paper.
Yup, you guessed it, today’s blog post is on revenue forecasting! My current blog series is about some of the non-legal finance issues that are out there and revenue forecasting, while required by law, is a really important one! There are many people that are involved with revenue forecasting in local governments. While many outside of government may just assume that there is some accountant or budget wonk sitting in a back room who is somehow magically able (or has some very scientific formula) to predict how much money is going to be coming in next year, we know better.
All great journeys start by asking three questions:
- Where do I want to go?
- What is my current location?
- What path do I need to take to arrive at my desired location?
In instructing IAAO and Excel classes throughout North Carolina, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many great assessment professionals. This article seeks to assist assessing professionals and assessing offices to chart their journey. I hope you find this article helpful as you plan your journey to assessing excellence!
David Cornell, 2017: Journey to Assessment Excellence: Using the Assessor’s Maturity Curve Model as a Guide [PDF]
This article was published in the IAAO’s January edition of “Fair and Equitable”.
Although there are no deaths to avenge in this story, it can be a tragedy to lower a business personal assessment when it is not warranted. Reducing a value, is a de facto exemption. It is an expense to the county. Accounts (parcels) with the highest value in local governments are quite often business personal property accounts. When a BPP assessment is reduced without proper reason, it can create de facto classifications. This means your largest taxpayers could be assessed at a lower assessment ratio than the smallest residential taxpayers. That doesn’t sit well with me. There are certainly many variables to consider when faced with a request to lower an assessed value. Read on for this 5 act, I mean 5 question, blog post.
In my last blog I talked about the limitations that we all have on decision making and how we satisfice and make decisions based on incomplete information. That is all true, but it does not mean that we should not strive to have a more robust understanding of the landscape we are working in. To that end, I am going to be devoting some of my blogs to topics that are both interesting and important to understand for those working in government, especially those in budget and finance positions. This week: tax incidence!
Last month, I started the discussion with Part 1 of this topic. Near the conclusion of Part 1, I hoped for some questions and what-ifs. I got ‘em, and I hope this month’s post will provide some insight.
In a previous post, I mentioned objective and subjective data along with the NCDOR’s new reappraisal standards. That information will be helpful when reading this post. The new reappraisal standards have been in development for over two years and have involved committees with members from the NCDOR, UNC School of Government, and NCAAO. In August, the NCDOR emailed a draft of those standards to all assessors for review and comment. Some comments from local tax officials have been related to the need for additional staff in order to meet the new standards. Chapter 5 of Assessment Administration. Chicago, IL: IAAO, 2003 is a well written chapter detailing the management tasks needed for an assessment office to meet requirements and goals. This post focuses on how planning well includes an effective justification of the assessor’s need for staff and resources. Understand first that we all engage in planning almost every day. It’s either done formally or informally. So if we’re going to plan anyway, we should plan well and be exposed to the best practices. Regarding planning, Albert Einstein is rumored to have said, “If I had 20 days to solve a problem, I would take 19 days to define it.” Our objective in this post is really to turn staff and resource concerns into math problems, without requiring Albert Einstein’s help for the solution.
These new reappraisal standards, if followed, will alter your goals and plan objectives. For example, checking and updating property characteristics data at a designated level of accuracy is an example of a plan objective tied to the goal of meeting the NCDOR reappraisal standards. That objective requires specific activities. Activities require people and resources. We hope all local tax officials desire to do quality appraisal and reappraisal work for the public they serve. Our taxpayers deserve competency, fairness, and equity. No doubt, high standards are needed and the NCDOR should be applauded for issuing them. NCGS 105-273(10a) defines a local tax official as including a member of a county board of commissioners. And while all local tax officials most likely desire to do a good job and meet standards, raising standards undoubtedly can require more staff or other resources, which in turn requires adequate funding.
“[T]he budget becomes an expression of public policy in terms of the resources a government is willing to allocate for equitable property taxation. The budget is also a reflection of how much political support exists for accurate and equitable assessments. Legal and administrative responsibilities cannot be met if resources are inadequate.” Assessment Administration, 119.
So I joke that when I get calls it is almost always someone wanting to see what the law says about the implementation of some revenue related issue. To which I respond you need to talk to Chris, Kara, or Frayda. The legality of government’s actions and the scope of the law are critical, but that is not what I am going to be able to help you with. Continue reading