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Warren County baseball player Christian Bartholomew (center) makes an unsuccessful attempt to stop a Louisburg player from sliding safely into home base during his team’s 9-4 defeat on senior night Monday.

Vance County begins preparing for property re-appraisal
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HENDERSON — Vance County officials are beginning to get ready for a re-appraisal of local property values that by the middle of the decade likely will end up influencing the property taxes residents pay.

The county government intends at the end of August to ask contractors to bid for the right to conduct the assessments, a job County Manager Jordan McMillen and his staff believe will take nearly 16 months of labor.

Their goal is to have the new assessments in place by 2024, in time for County Commissioners to take them into account when they’re deciding on the fiscal 2024-25 budget and its associated tax rate, officials said.

Presuming the bidding goes forward smoothly, the staff should have “a potential recommendation for a firm” to present to commissioners “in November or December of this year,” McMillen said.

Like its counterparts across North Carolina, Vance County when levying property taxes is supposed to charge owners based on the market value of their holdings, or as state law puts it, the property’s “true value in money.”

Gauging that requires an appraisal, which when officials start adding up all the holdings in their jurisdiction becomes a time-consuming and expensive process. Because of that, appraisals are only done every so often.

The state requires counties to conduct re-appraisals — also known as revaluations — at least once every eight years.

Vance County’s most recent revaluation dates from 2016, so it’s coming due for completing a new one on the timeline McMillen and his staff are suggesting for the project.

But the N.C. Department of Revenue actually urges local governments to conduct revaluations every four years, to combat a problem that can develop over time as real-estate markets change.

Because markets are seldom static, the price a county thinks a property’s worth and the price its owner can actually get for it aren’t always the same.

When values are on the rise, a county can end up with only part of the revenue a true market valuation would suggest. When values are falling, it can receive more revenue than a true valuation would actually entitle it to. And the more years a county goes between revaluations, the bigger those gaps can get.

Vance County has the growing-values problem.

McMillen in his fiscal 2021-22 budget request noted the latest Department of Revenue figures suggest that the county’s only taxing properties on 81% of their actual, real-world market value.

Another Department of Revenue report, which looked at 2019 real-estate transactions, said the gap is large enough that Vance County’s government, which nominally charges 89 cents per $100 of assessed value, would need to charge only 76.51 cents per $100 if its assessment was up to date.

Aggregate valuation and revenues aren’t the only issue.

Properties in a community don’t all gain or lose value at the same rate over time. The market favors some and not others. Redevelopment in a neighborhood or a downtown can push the value of every nearby property higher. So when a set of appraisals is out of date, some people can wind up paying an unfairly larger or smaller amount of taxes.

One question Vance commissioners will have to answer as the revaluation project moves forward is how closely the appraisers should look at each property.

An option is to have contractors perform “a walk-around appraisal,” looking at the outside of a home or business and seeing how closely the actual property matches the description the county already has on file for it.

But another is to conduct what officials term a “full measure and list appraisal,” not only shooting pictures of any additions the appraiser sees but taking a measuring tape to them and “verif[ying] interior data” to boot.

State regulators have signaled a preference on that score.

Because there’s such a wide gap between the 2016 appraisal numbers and what properties in the county are actually selling for, the N.C. Department of Revenue “is recommending a full-measure revaluation,” McMillen told commissioners.

The commissioners’ Properties Committee, when briefed, was willing to consider that idea, but wants to see how much money contractors will want for the job before actually getting behind it, he added.

A revaluation by itself doesn’t mean taxes will increase in the aggregate.

Before they debate the fiscal 2024-25 budget, county officials will have to calculate and publish what’s called a “revenue-neutral tax rate” that, as the name implies, is the rate that would generate the same amount of revenue using the new appraisal as the county was getting with the old numbers.

County governments typically roll back their rates to the revenue-neutral rate or something relatively close to it. But even a revenue-neutral rate can translate into higher tax bills for people who own land or buildings that have grown in value more than others over time.

Contact Ray Gronberg at rgronberg@hendersondispatch.com or by phone at 252-436-2850.

Center for Innovation coming to former Henderson Middle School location
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HENDERSON — The building that was once the home of Henderson High School and Henderson Middle School is set to become a major focal point for Vance County later this year with the introduction of the Center for Innovation.

Vance County Schools Superintendent Tony Jackson spearheaded the Center for Innovation and sees the project as a way to further galvanize the county’s trajectory when it comes to education and investment into the community.

“I think the Center for Innovation is going to be an incubator for ideas, thought, growth, professional development and community engagement,” Jackson said. “For us, I think this will serve as a hub to begin bringing our community together around those things that are possible for the future.”

Built in 1937, the location housed students for Henderson High until the structure was damaged by a fire. High school students were subsequently moved to the new Vance Senior High while the building reopened in 1971 as Henderson Junior High following extensive repairs.

Classes continued at what later became known as Henderson Middle School until 2018, when students were moved to the former Northern Vance High School building as part of Henderson Middle’s consolidation with the former Eaton-Johnson Middle School.

The Henderson Middle location did not stay vacant for long, as the site serves as the current home for AdVance Academy, STEM Early High and Vance Virtual Village Academy, all of which are a part of the Center of Innovation.

Education is a primary focus of the Center for Innovation, but Assistant Superintendent Cindy Bennett said the site will centralize Vance County Schools’ mission towards showcasing talented young artists in Henderson.

“A part of what will take place here involves enhancing the arts,” Bennett said. “That involves music, broadcasting and dance. We want to partner with some of our local clubs and organizations to provide a space for them to bring in an author or artist. This will be a great place to create experiences for children and adults in this community.”

One major component of the Center for Innovation will be its three zSpace labs, which allow students to interact with simulated objects in virtual-reality environments that involve dissecting animals, welding and automobiles.

When it is completed, the Center of Innovation will also include a video and audio recording studio along with the Wayne Adcock Community Auditorium, named after the late Vance County Schools Superintendent Jerry Wayne Adcock, which will have a maximum capacity of 700 people for school and community events.

Mayor Eddie Ellington was among those that toured the construction Center for Innovation on Tuesday evening. He praised the hard work that Jackson, Vance County Schools and so many other people have put in toward making the project a reality and is looking forward to seeing the finished product soon.

“My mother graduated from Henderson High and it’s amazing to see life reborn again in these hallways,” Ellington said. “So much innovation is taking place in every classroom and I think that just shows how all of these investments in Vance County are moving us to the next level.”

Ellington added that the Center for Innovation will provide local students the opportunity to obtain a modern, high-quality education, which is something that he knows would not have been possible in Vance County just a few years ago.

Jackson said that the improvements made to education in Vance County, such as the on-time graduation rate in the district increasing from 64.9% in 2013 to 90.1% in 2020, is indicative of how hard everyone has worked toward emphasizing the importance of education and how it can impact the future of Vance County.

Although Jackson’s time with Vance County Schools is coming to an end, he takes pride in the fact knowing that education in the area is in much better shape than it was a decade ago and that the Center for Innovation will help keep Vance County on that positive trajectory.

“We believe that we will be able to serve our students, families, community and businesses with [the Center for Innovation] while also building new and exciting programs,” Jackson said. “This will serve as that clearinghouse for all things that can make our community stronger and I’m looking to accomplish every single day to ensure that the future of this community is bright and prosperous.”

Construction on the Center for Innovation is expected to be completed in time for the first week of the 2021-22 academic calendar.

Granville school district shuffles senior staff
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OXFORD — Granville County’s school board has signed off on a personnel shuffle that among other things puts in place a new assistant superintendent to oversee curriculum and teaching.

The changes take effect July 1, and officials hope they streamline the way they support their schools.

“I believe that the reassignments are going to [position] us now that we’re going to be back [teaching] face-to-face,” said board Chairman David Richardson. “As we embark on our mantra of a new day, [that] new leadership and those reassignments are just kind of making sure everyone’s on the right seat on the bus.

First, the board named Stan Winborne, now the assistant superintendent for operations and human resources, to the position of associate superintendent of curriculum, instruction and student services.

Winborne has served nearly 25 years with the district, and as head of curriculum and instruction will replace Michael Myrick, who’s leaving to become superintendent of the Weldon City Schools.

“I look forward to building upon the work of my good friend and colleague, Dr. Myrick,” said Winborne, who also will continue as the system’s public information officer. “I consider this role to be one that above all, puts the interests of our students first. I am excited to be given the responsibility to execute the academic vision and goals of our superintendent as laid out in our district’s strategic plan, and look forward to working closely with the teachers, principals and other support staff in our schools.”

“As a father of four children, all of whom have flourished in our school district, I truly believe that we are the choice for education in Granville County,” Winborne added. “I am committed to ensure that continues to be the case moving forward.”

Jamar Perry, who is currently entering his third year with the school system, was named executive director of human resources.

Bill Graham was named interim executive director of operations. In his 36-years career, he’s been principal of South Granville High School, Granville Central High School and, most recently, Granville Academy.

Courtney Currin was named the director of federal compliance and personnel and will also take on marketing duties for the district. Replacing her as principal of Tar River Elementary is Timothy Bombay, who moves up from his role as assistant principal at that school.

Mary Warehime is also moving to the position of interim principal of Granville Academy. She has served as dean of instruction for the school for the past two years.

The following were named assistant principals for the following schools: Kristin Wilson, Tar River Elementary School; Ashley Lloyd, Granville Central High School; Anthony Herndon, Butner-Stem Middle School; Kelly Helner, Creedmoor Elementary School; Emily Makay, Northern Granville Middle School; Pam Davis (intern), Northern Granville Middle School; and Kellie Walton (intern), Butner-Stem Middle School.

“Dr. Myrick’ss departure gave us the ability to do a reorganization at the Central Office,” Richardson said. “These reassignments happen periodically for several reasons. Downsizing is one of them. The other is playing off of others talents, or wishing that a principal or assistant principal may want a new challenge.”

Trooper Brent Montgomery is remembered in a special ceremony
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HENDERSON — Brent Montgomery was remembered in a ceremony on Tuesday in which his widow, Heather, received condolences and a check from the American Association of State Troopers.

The award was made by state Rep. Carolyn Logan, D-Mecklenburg, on behalf of the association.

Also participating in the ceremony were State Highway Patrol Trooper Anthony Lamancusa, Sgt. Darby Guy and state Rep. Terry Garrison, D-Vance.

In a letter addressed to Heather Montgomery, AAST President Keith Barbier wrote: “Dear Mrs. Montgomery: On behalf of the Board of Directors of the American Association of State Troopers (AAST), please accept our condolences on the loss of your husband Brent. All the members of our Association share in your loss and our thoughts and prayers are with you at this difficult time. Enclosed is a contribution of brotherhood assistance for you in memory of Brent.”

Logan can identify with the purpose of the ceremony. She served 30 years with the State Highway Patrol before she retired and before she became a state legislator. During that time, she was the AAST representative in North Carolina.

Logan said she followed Trooper Montgomery’s struggle with COVID-12 and prayed for him.

“When I learned that they were going to send a check to her, I asked Rep. Garrison to set up a meeting, since it was in his district,” Logan said.

Montgomery died on March 15 after a valiant struggle against the COVID-19 virus. In addition to his wife, Heather, he is survived by a daughter and two sons.

Brent was a Master Trooper in the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, serving with Troop C, in District 4, which covers Vance, Warren and Franklin counties.