For over a year, the residents of the county have been subjected to the results of the Mecklenburg County assessor office desperately trying to set market values for 355,000 properties in the county. Alas, for all of this time, the assessor has stated that he is obeying the statutes, and that for him to do any better the statutes have to change. After a year of effort, on Feb. 7, he told the county commission that his office was down 12 people and his staff of 72 was struggling to do the job. I had tried for months prior to that meeting to help property owners deal with the unjust revaluation system and an arrogant, albeit incompetent, county department.

The Feb. 7 county commissioner meeting was a watershed event, having to watch the county praise the assessor for doing a great job. It is not a great job, it is a horrible job with state law (the Machinery Act) and locally adopted ordinances being violated and the residents of the county treated with disdain.

While much of the focus has been on waterfront property, there are many other property owners that are being hit with substantial increases to assessed valuations far above the market values of their properties. What isn’t often mentioned is the impact this is having on the elderly who have lived in the same home for decades, who are physically infirmed and either do not own computers or are not capable of following the complex and conflicting instructions provided by the assessor’s office. Some of the stories are truly heartbreaking.

So we have formed a group of residents that are rising up to fight the assessor, aided by the leadership of county commissioners Bill James and Karen Bentley and the support of the Cornelius town board.

We read the statutes and the Machinery Act and are challenging the actions of the assessor. We are not attorneys, but have read the laws and strongly believe that the assessor has to take action to remedy the mistakes he has made. The details of our complaint are outlined in a 13-page letter with an attachment listing the names of over 140 people supporting it.

We have submitted the letter to the county and different state agencies asking them to examine the actions of the assessor and determine what needs to happen to provide fair treatment to property owners. The assessor has already admitted potential mistakes in an email stating his office would review the valuations in Cornelius. But that action (which he said was illegal at the Feb. 7 county board meeting) has caused other municipalities to ask for the same treatment.

So, we will approach every municipality in the county to bring them up to speed on the issues and to ask for their support. We have a Facebook page at “Flawed Revaluation” and ask that you become a friend so you can follow events as they unfold. We will travel to Raleigh to meet with legislators and regulatory agencies to make our case. We expect a fight as any reset of property values will result in lower revenues to municipalities in the county that are eagerly eyeing the bonanza of additional revenue headed their way. Please help us fight for you. Join our Facebook page or email me at jbensman@attglobal.net.

– Jim Bensman, former Cornelius commissioner