ASHEVILLE – Fast-rising real estate prices and local political decisions are expected to drive up property tax bills this year.
That’s because some things are known about the formula used for figuring taxes – and some things aren’t. There are two near-certainties. The first is that city property values went up an average of 29 percent since the last time the government assessed them in 2013. The second is taxes will be needed to start making payments on $74 million in voter-approved bond borrowing.
The unknowns are tax rates, which are set by the city and Buncombe County and combined for Asheville property bills.
Bills could inch up even more depending on a City Council debate over public transit funding.
Mayor Esther Manheimer said she’s not personally “shut the door” on additional funding for programs such as energy-efficiency initiatives or buses but is also concerned about tax bills.
“I’ve heard real concerns from people about affordability,” Manheimer said.
HOW TAX BILLS GET HASHED OUT
The annual tax bill for city property owners is actually a combination of tax bills.
Those are a county tax, a city tax, and in most cases, an Asheville City Schools tax.
The city rate is set by the council. The Board of Commissioners sets the county rate. Commissioners also set the schools rate after getting a recommendation from the school board.
The two elected bodies vote on those rates before the start of each fiscal year.
For most city property owners, those three rates are added together. For those outside the city schools district, only city and county rates are used. A property’s value is divided by 100 then multiplied by the combined rates.
Normally rates stay the same or go up. This year, they’re expected to drop.
But that doesn’t mean bills will also drop.
That’s because of new county-assigned property values, something that happens about every four years. This year, those values jumped in an eye-popping way.
In the slowest-growing part of the city, South Asheville, property values rose a combined 17 percent, according to the county tax office. Meanwhile, in downtown there was a 44 percent increase in the value of land, homes and other buildings.