Tax Relief

Lumberton ready to rent lawyer for deannexation, tax relief

LUMBERTON — One Lumberton resident is prepared to hire an attorney to separate his land from the city limits and appeal years of debt owed on his property before he moved into his home in 2020.

Alex Musselwhite moved into his home on Meadow Road in 2020. He and his neighbors paid taxes to Robeson County and were Lumberton sewer customers. They never received trash pickup services or other services besides sanitary sewer services, he said.

“We were told we were in the county,” Musselwhite said.

But, in December 2021, that all changed when letters came to Musselwhite and other residents in the Meadows at the Oaks community stating they owed outstanding property taxes to the City of Lumberton, he said.

Musselwhite said he was charged back taxes from 2016 when he didn’t own the property.

“They charged us interest on back taxes,” he said.

Musselwhite said his neighbors have stated they will not pay the total.

Some outstanding balances include $1,189.45, $2,896 and $10,899.35.

He told The Robesonian he is unsure how the city can justify the charges and said that he has two neighbors that owe $20,000 each.

The Lumberton Public Services Department told The Robesonian that none of the property owners owed $20,000 or more in property taxes to the city.

country

New owners take on the unpaid debt of land once it is purchased.

“It goes with the land,” said Lumberton City Attorney Holt Moore III.

“Obviously it’s a lien on the land and we foreclose on those liens if they’re not paid,” he said.

The land was annexed in 2010 at the request of developers, Moore said.

The attorney provided The Robesonian with a general warranty deed that states the parcel is “situated within the City of Lumberton.”

“It’s, you know, it’s a challenging situation, because the discovery wasn’t made until December so if somebody bought their land last year, you know, there’s gonna be some time on that bill for when they didn’t own the property,” Moore said.

The attorney told The Robesonian the city’s Tax Department was not aware of the City Council’s move to annex the land into the city limits, and made that discovery in December 2021.

“From time to time, that happens where it’s in the city but the Tax Department doesn’t realize it’s in the city,” he said.

Lumberton City Manager Wayne Horne said when an annexation is recorded, it’s usually “picked up by the county.”

“It didn’t get picked up this time,” Horne said.

billing

A resident in Lumberton city limits and the county is responsible for paying property tax rates for the city and county.

“They’re billed totally separately,” Moore said. “The county bills for theirs.”

The attorney and city manager told The Robesonian the city gets a list of taxable properties from the county then the city Tax Department bills them.

Moore said state law requires that governing bodies bill for the current tax year and five years prior.

Robeson County Tax Administrator Robert Conner said the law means that those property taxes owed by Musselwhite and others would be considered delinquent if not paid by Jan. 6, 2023.

Robeson County Board of Equalization and Review

Musselwhite and others involved may contact the Robeson County Board of Equalization and Review for possible relief, Moore said. The Lumberton City Council previously decided that the board should handle “appeals and requests for relief” in the situation of discovery.

Moore said he even has drafted a letter for Musselwhite and others to send to the RCBOER.

“Every step, we’ve tried to work with them,” Horne said.

Horne has seen cases where residents have gotten relief from the board’s decision, he said.

Moore told The Robesonian that the city will honor the decision of the RCBOER in the case.

The board is made up of nine members and will hold its next meeting to receive applications on May 2 at 9 am in the Robeson County Administration Center located at 550 N. Chestnut St. in Lumberton, according to Conner. The meeting will be held in the training room on the second floor.

“The board as always is very understanding,” Conner said.

The board can “compromise, settle or adjust,” he added.

Musselwhite told The Robesonian he contacted Conner Tuesday afternoon about the situation.

He told The Robesonian on Thursday that Conner “has advised the City that appeals have been filed.”

No date for the hearing with the board had been set as of Thursday afternoon, according to Musselwhite.

deannexation

“We don’t want to be part of the city at all,” Musselwhite said.

And Musselwhite is prepared to seek deannexation from the city.

According to the UNC School of Government, “Only the General Assembly has authority to deannex, or remove, property from a city.”

Musselwhite sought information from the state level by contacting NC Senator Danny Britt.

Sen. Britt told The Robesonian he advised Musselwhite of “other remedies they should seek out first.”

Anyone seeking to file an appeal to be heard by the Robeson County Board of Equalization and Review can contact Conner via email at [email protected]

Reach Jessica Horne at 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected]

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