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Declining home values put Cumberland budget in bind

Posted March 6

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— Cumberland County leaders are scrambling to pull themselves out of a financial hole. A recent property revaluation and a plan to help veterans and first responders with their taxes is creating a $7 million dollar budget shortfall.

The county Board of Commissioners took an in-depth look at the numbers during a Monday budget workshop and didn't like what they saw.

"There's only three choices: You raise taxes or you cut services or you cut employees," board Chairman Glenn Adams said. "All three are not necessarily desirable for this board."

The budget gap is a combination of a 2.9 percent average decline in property values in the recent countywide property revaluation and the likelihood of a bill being passed by the General Assembly that would exempt disabled veterans and first responders from paying property taxes. The revaluation has cost the county $4.1 million, while the tax exemption, if approved, would cost another $2.7 million.

"We've asked the state if they want to do that," Commissioner Marshall Faircloth said of the tax exemption. "We're all in support of it. We just need some replacement funds so that it doesn't hit us disproportionally."

In addition to the revaluation, tax revenue collections are down in Cumberland County because of damage done to homes by Hurricane Matthew. County officials said they are bracing for an expected wave of requests for reassessments from residents who find themselves financially upside down in their homes.

"What's unfortunate is, when the property values go down and still having to pay taxes on a piece of property, that I couldn't sell it for that amount," said Libby Seymour, who has lived in Fayetteville's Lake Shore neighborhood since the 1970s.

The Board of Commissioners must find a way to balance the budget by June 1, when they begin the process of adopting it. The new budget will take effect in July.

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  • Norman Lewis Mar 6, 9:04 p.m.
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    Each of these concerns could have been anticipated and the outcome of reduced revenue calculated but the officials decided not to do so because that would have involved cutting expenditures and no politician likes to do that so they buried their heads in the sand. This is not "a bind", this is an ignored likely outcome from a known cause. And to the unfortunate resident of the area, I have for many years marveled at the "tax value" of my home but of course, the tax "value" usually has no accurate relationship to the actual market value. I bet the county assessors have their homes valued properly to the penny for tax purposes.