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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

Want to lower your property taxes? Maybe you should start digging

Mecklenburg County’s latest property revaluations came with an interesting twist. As the tax values of homes rose, some of Charlotte’s most prestigious properties saw their values fall. WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson, in his "On My Mind" commentary, sees an opportunity.

When my household got its property revaluation from Mecklenburg County last week, we thought about appealing it like a lot of other people are doing.

But then I had a better idea. I’m going to get out the post-hole digger, put 18 holes in the yard, and call it a golf course.

Apparently, that’s how you get a real tax break in this county.

You know, if you’ve tried to buy a house around here anytime lately, that the real estate market is insane. Home prices have taken off like a 747, and the revaluation reflects that — tax values went up an average of 58% countywide.

But somehow, some of the ritziest country clubs in the county saw their tax value go down. WFAE’s Steve Harrison and the Charlotte Ledger reported that Charlotte Country Club’s value dropped 30% — from $18.8 million to $12.3 million. Piper Glen’s dropped by half, from $10.7 to $5.3 million. And Quail Hollow — home of a yearly PGA Tour event, host of the PGA Championship two years from now — is supposedly worth less than $10 million now, down from $13.5 million.

I did a quick search online for houses on Baltusrol Lane, which borders Quail Hollow. The first three houses I clicked on were valued at a total of $14.8 million. So you’re telling me that a random three houses bordering the club are worth more than the entire 257 acres of the club put together?

Apparently that’s the way the county sees it. County assessor Ken Joyner says the county didn’t look at what the land of a country club is actually worth; instead, they look at the income it’s bringing in. And country clubs don’t draw much money beyond the dues paid by its wealthy members.

But it’s obvious to anyone with a lick of sense that 257 acres in the wealthiest part of the county is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. And here’s how you know it’s true: Club president Johnny Harris, in a 2021 story, said Quail Hollow had undergone more than $30 million in renovations to get ready for big upcoming events.

You’d have to be pretty bad at business to make $30 million in improvements and end up with a property worth less than $10 million.

I’m not sure if the flaw here is the law or the way it’s being interpreted. But the outcome is that once again, a group of very rich people find themselves paying way less than their fair share in taxes. And that puts more of the tax burden on the shoulders of those of us who don’t belong to country clubs.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. I think I’m going to dig my holes in the yard and call our house a country club. We do play a lot of country around here.

I’m not sure it’s going to get us any votes for Yard of the Month. But like some other country club owners, I’m not too concerned how things look. As long as the taxes go down.

Tommy Tomlinson’s "On My Mind" column runs Mondays on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

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Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary, On My Mind, which airs every Monday.