The Beaufort County board responsible for ruling on property-value appeals will resume hearings at the end of the month after being out of commission since February.
Overwhelmed and understaffed, the Tax Equalization Board was suspended indefinitely while facing a years-long backlog of nearly 200 appeals, board chairman Bob Cummins said.
Since then, County Council expanded the board from seven to 15 members, and the board has hired a new administrative assistant.
The board now has three panels, each with five members, to decide appeals. That triples the board's capacity to process cases, which had been capped at about eight appeals per month, Cummins said.
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The plan is to send one panel each to county government centers in Beaufort and Bluffton and on Hilton Head Island during the first and third week of each month. The first hearings will begin at 6 p.m. Oct. 30 in Beaufort and on Hilton Head, and board members will be split between the two locations to help get the new members settled, he said. There are no Bluffton hearings scheduled for that first round.
"We'll try to schedule hearings near where the property is," Cummins said. "We don't want an owner in Sea Pines (on Hilton Head) to have to drive to Beaufort if they don't have to."
In addition to expanding the board, the number of active appeals has been cut almost in half -- to between 100 and 110, Cummins said.
That's due in part to an effort by the county Assessor's Office to contact property owners with outstanding appeals and weed out cases in which owners no longer wish to make their case.
Others dropped their appeals when notified of their hearing date for similar reasons, Cummins said.
About a third of the board's backlog was eliminated in one fell swoop when the office notified Colleton River Development Co. that it would hear its appeals on about 50 properties in one hearing, according to Cummins. The company then declined to continue.
As the county clears its backlog, many new cases are expected in response to this year's countywide property-value reassessment, completed in August.
"Those appeals will start coming in probably the first part of January," Cummins said. "Hopefully by mid-February to early March, (the board) can get what's on the books cleared off."
Delinquent-tax sale changes
Beaufort County will hold this year's delinquent-tax sale at 10 a.m. Monday in the Charles Lind Brown Gymnasium at 1001 Hamar St. in Beaufort.
New to the sale this year: All bidders must register online or at the Beaufort County Treasurer's Office before noon Friday. There is a $25 registration fee and a $270 fee per property for deeding and recording.
To register, go to bcgov.net/taxsale or stop by the Treasurer's Office at 100 Ribaut Road, suite 165, Beaufort.
A complete list of properties for sale is at bcgov.net and will be updated as properties are paid for, according to the county.
How to appeal
Owners who want to appeal their property's tax valuation must notify the Beaufort County Assessor's Office before Dec. 11.
To notify the office, owners must fill out an appeal form to request a meeting with the assessor's staff. The form can be downloaded from bcgov.net and faxed to 843-255-9404, emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or delivered to the assessor's Beaufort office at room 210, county administration building, 100 Ribaut Road, Beaufort.
If the issue is not resolved after that meeting, property owners may continue their appeal with a formal notice outlining their objections. Those may also be hand-delivered, mailed, faxed or emailed to the assessor.
If the issue remains unresolved after those two exchanges, appeals are forwarded to the Tax Equalization Board.
For more details, go to the assessor's Web page at bcgov.net.
Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.