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Oak Island May Challenge Revaluation

By Megan V. Williams

Wilmington, NC – Oak Island mayor Johnnie Vereen says he isn't trying to start a tax rebellion.

But Vereen is making sure his counterparts around Brunswick County know exactly what Oak Island is doing to protest its tax revaluation.

Vereen and the town council meet tonight to vote on a resolution asking Brunswick's tax office to review the entire community's property tax revaluation and urging similar scrutiny for the rest of the county.

Vereen is sending copies of the resolution to every other municipal government in the county and says he's already taken a call from an alderman in Southport.

Oak Island's average tax value went up more than 200% in the revaluation, twice as much as neighboring Caswell Beach, leading some councilmen to question the difference. Brunswick County Tax Administrator Tom Bagby says much of the difference is due to an early real estate boom running up Caswell Beach's values prior to the last revaluation four years ago, and the large number of unimproved lots still left in Oak Island.

But Bagby also admits that the software his department uses had trouble calculating the value of houses on double lots.

Vereen says residents and councilmen indentified problems with 37 double-lot homes in the town. He wants the county to take responsibility for hunting mis-valued properties.

"The burden of proof shouldn't be on the taxpayer," Vereen says, "the burden of proof should be on the tax department to have it correct."

There's no mechanism under state law for a mass challenge to a revaluation, according to Bagby, who defends individual appeals as the best way to identify problems.

"You can't push a button and say 'fix it' and five minutes later it's all fixed," Bagby says, "It's not that simple. But we can run programs and do reviews and we can find them and we can fix them, and we will do that."

Bagby had originally estimated that the revaluation would receive up to 20,000 appeals. As of the middle of last week, 4,500 had come in. The deadline for appeals is this Friday.

The Oak Island Town Council meets tonight at 7pm in the Recreation Center to vote on the resolution.