According to South Carolina law, counties in the state are required to reassess all personal and commercial properties within their borders to fair market value every five years. This requirement called for Beaufort County to conduct a reassessment in 2003, but because of a number of factors, the county delayed it until 2004.
In 2008, Beaufort County was required to again reassess all properties. However, because of new software updates, that reassessment was postponed until 2009.
The unintended consequence of the second delay resulted in assessed values being set at December 2007 levels. And, as we all know, real estate prices plummeted all over the state in 2008 amid the economic crash.
Now, as a result of that late reassessment and the bad economy, homes in Beaufort County have been assessed at values far greater than their fair market value as required under state law.
The only good news is that a state constitutional amendment caps reassessment increases at 15 percent over five years.
Beaufort County Assessor Ed Hughes has publicly stated that he expects that there will be more than 10,000 reassessment appeals. However, how can an appellant determine what a property was actually worth in 2007?
Some say property sales in 2007 could be used. However, if no properties in your neighborhood or area were sold in 2007, what then? This appears to be a legal nightmare in the making.
Worse, what will happen in 2013?
Not to mention the cost of potentially 10,000 appeals and possible litigation in some of those cases. Those expenses will be born by the county (aka taxpayers).
Tom Hatfield is a retired marketing executive living on Hilton Head. He is actively involved in the S.C. Charter School Movement and S.C. tax simplification issues.