As the Sampson County Tax Office prepares to send out some 60,000 tax bills, it is waiting to hear back from the state before continuing its effort to ensure all parcels along the Sampson-Duplin boundary are being taxed correctly.
That is an ongoing endeavor, with tax officials in Sampson and Duplin working together on the project. The Sampson County Board of Commissioners took the first step in May with the adoption of a resolution accepting a state resurvey as establishing the “true boundary” between the two counties, a move that kicked off a months-long process through which tax rolls will reflect the change.
The resolution authorized the counties’ tax office staffs to work together to correct tax parcels according to the new border lines. That will be done in the near future, as Sampson is awaiting word from the state before proceeding to go down the line, parcel by parcel, deed by deed, plat by plat, with Duplin County, Sampson County tax administrator Jim Johnson said this week.
“It will definitely be done after the tax bills are mailed out, which will be done hopefully as early as next week,” Johnson said. “We have contacted Duplin County and sent them our information and they have sent everything in to the state.”
According to Johnson, the board-approved resolution, along with the minute book and page of the meeting where the adoption can be found, were attached to a copy of the maps — Duplin also included its information and adopted resolution — and sent to the state. Once the state receives and processes the information, they will send back to each county a mylar map suitable for recording.
Once the maps have been recorded in each county, the work can begin, Johnson said.
“We have to send everything into the state and then maps are sent back to the county and have to be recorded in both Duplin and Sampson counties,” he said. “We’re waiting on the state now to gather the information they need to gather and send back maps. Then we’ll go through, parcel by parcel, deed by deed, and adjustments will be made on both sides.”
A resurvey conducted years ago by the state set the line between Sampson and Duplin counties — along with many others — but it is up to staffs in each county to make the matter official by working together to ensure the line is recognized by both counties, reflected in local land records and ultimately translated into tax rolls.
Dan Cronin, Duplin’s GIS coordinator, initiated contact with Sampson County at the end of last year about the actions that Duplin had taken following that resurvey. They have already worked with various other bordering counties to complete the same process, and Cronin will be working closely with Johnson and others as each parcel on the Sampson-Duplin line is similarly put under the microscope.
“You would hope, for the most part, your line is already correct,” Johnson noted. “I don’t foresee (a huge change). Preliminary reports show that we might gain some acreage.”
Johnson said there are approximately 170 parcels on the Sampson County side and 200 parcels on the Duplin County side that will be affected. In the process, each deed and tax parcel will be reviewed. If the amount of acreage in one county is one-tenth or less, the entire parcel will be given to the other county.
“The bottom line, we just want to get these records right,” Cronin remarked earlier this year. “We want to make sure everyone is being taxed fairly and equitably and that, if your property is in Sampson County, you’re being taxed in Sampson County. We’re not worried about less than a tenth of an acre. Anything more and you could be taxed by both counties.”
Duplin County currently has a property tax rate of 71 cents per $100 valuation, while Sampson stands at 78.5 cents per $100 valuation, so there could be a change in not only where tax bills are mailed, but the figure on them. It is anticipated that the work will be completed and letters sent to taxpayers by early 2013. January has been the target date, but it could be later, depending on when the work starts and how long it takes, Johnson said.
He said the project will obviously not be reflected in property bills being mailed out next week, but will be in next year’s tax bills.
“After the project has been completed, joint letters will be sent out to all affected property owners,” Johnson said.
In speaking with Sampson commissioners, Cronin said the process is not about “winners and losers,” but about getting things right for tax purposes. He has noted that, as far as assessment records and value on the tax rolls, Sampson looks to gain from the venture, and there may even be pockets of land currently not being taxed at all.
However, Johnson maintains that the resurvey allows the counties to put properties, and all associated paperwork, in order. Like Cronin, he emphasized that the process is not about “winners and losers,” but getting it right.
“If it belongs to Duplin, Duplin needs the taxes,” said Johnson. “If it’s ours, we want it. That’s our philosophy. We just want to get it right.”
And, like Duplin, Sampson could be contacting other bordering counties in an effort to “get things right” on all sides.
“There have been commissioners showing some interest in doing the same process on the other borders,” Johnson said, noting that same procedure — adopted resolutions, state notification and joint work with counties — would have to be followed. Mutual agreement would also have to be reached. “Other counties would have to agree to do it.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.