Pearson’s Appraisal Service will handle the county’s next revaluation in 2019, a process that begins two years in advance. The company, which has handled reappraisal services for Sampson the past 16 years, was given the green light by a narrow 3-2 margin, with one commissioner expressing apprehension with the status quo.
Requests for proposals (RFP) for revaluation services were sent out to the 13 firms registered with the North Carolina Department of Revenue. Three bids were received from Assessment Solutions of NC Inc., Pearson’s Appraisal Service and Tyler Technologies. The bid from Assessment Solutions of NC was determined to be non-responsive as they did not provide the 5 percent bid bond required in the RFP.
The remaining two bids were compared, with staff recommending Pearson Appraisal Service in the amount of $935,000. The Sampson County Board of Commissioners approved the recommendation 3-2, with Commissioners Albert Kirby and Harry Parker dissenting.
Commissioner Jerol Kivett expressed surprise in what he believed was a limited response to the RFP, just three of 13. Finance officer David Clack and Tax administrator Jim Johnson said there was the same response — and same bidders — for the 2011 revaluation. “Seems a little strange,” Kivett noted.
Pearson handled the 2011 revaluation. Kirby expressed concerns with them doing it again.
“I hate to say it, but it was a painful experience,” he noted. “The way they did it was just painful. We had this place packed with people, angry. There was a lot of frustration at the way it was done last time.”
County manager Ed Causey said there were a lot of questions last time around, but chalked that up to the data available to citizens and the two different entry systems the Sampson County Tax Office was using before upgrades were made and the system consolidated to make it more user-friendly and up-to-date information readily available to the public.
Kirby also cited “drive-by” appraisals that were not in depth. Johnson said appraisers walk around properties and are not allowed to enter them as part of the revaluation process.
“Anytime you have a reappraisal, you’re going to have a substantial number of appeals,” Johnson noted. “That’s just the way it works. Then each year after reappraisal you tend to think you’ll have less and less people (appealing).”
Kirby said he was “channeling” former commissioners in voicing his concern.
“If they were sitting here right now, they would not pick that group,” he remarked. “But maybe it’s something we need to let them know about from the beginning. I have reservations about that same group, but Mr. Causey if you feel comfortable with it, I have no problem.”
“I believe that our information we will have available to them is substantially better than what it was before,” the county manager replied. “With 46,000 parcels, there is going to be a certain number that will want to come in and share information. So to tell you there won’t be appeals would be disingenuous.”
Commissioner Sue Lee said “sticker shock” was likely to bring many in for an appeal after revaluation.
Fred Pearson of Pearson’s Appraisal spoke to the board briefly during its meeting.
“I understand your concerns. I think in order to have a good revaluation, the county and ourselves need to work closely together and address concerns with property owners,” Pearson said. “I’ve done this for 35 years and people have concerns. You need to sit there and listen to them. We try to do the best job we can, but no one knows that property better than the property owner.”
He said Sampson County’s next reval should be “mild.” Pearson said his company takes two photos of every house “and every outbuilding we can.”
“My main concern is that everyone gets a fair and equitable assessment,” Pearson remarked.
Leading up to the vote, Purchasing and Contracting Officer Juanita Brewington reviewed the bids for the board.
With the 2011 revaluation process, the period of time for hearings and appeals consisted of approximately 60 days. Pearson’s bid proposal allowed for 40 days for hearings and appeals. Tyler Technologies bid proposal allowed 20 days, with any additional days to be provided at the current rate.
Brewington said that “to evaluate these two bids on a level playing field, it was only fair and reasonable to consider an equal amount of days for hearings and appeals.” An estimated rate of $200 per hour — $1,600 for an eight-hour day — for a period of 20 days was added to the bid amount proposed by Tyler Technologies. That addition equated to $32,000. A performance bond payment of $9,000 was also added.
All totaled, that brought Tyler’s new bid amount to $941,000, putting it just over Pearson’s bid.
“Based on the evaluation and the rates of $941,000 for Tyler Technologies and $935,000 for Pearson’s Appraisal Service, it is our recommendation that the contract be awarded to Pearson’s Appraisal Service,” Brewington stated.
Board Chairman Clark Wooten said there is “an art” to appraisal and asked that Pearson do better than his best for Sampson.
“We have the highest tax rate of any county that touches us and we’re fixing to do a revaluation,” said Wooten. “I’m expecting our contractor to be empathetic with the people of the county that foot the bill. I expect you to be professional and I want to see two pictures. I’m holding you accountable. There is an art to telling people ‘no’ and getting them to like it, and it doesn’t sound like it worked out that way last time.”
Pearson said he wanted to work with the county as a team in order to be fair across the board.
The vote ultimately came 3-2 in approval.
“Alright Mr. Pearson, by a very narrow margin, you’ve got the job,” Wooten said. “I can assure you that I understand my fellow commissioners’ hesitation. Make them proud and make me and the other commissioners proud.”
“I will do the very best I can,” Pearson replied.
“Well, that may not be good enough,” Wooten said. “We may have to get better.”
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