Forsyth Co. prepares for $20M revenue shortfall if home values keep dropping

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FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. -- The drop in property values may be good for homeowners, but Forsyth County officials may soon have to figure out whether to cut services or raise taxes to make up a $20 million difference.

County officials said overall property values are currently going down for the first time in the county's history.

"We've gone down in some neighborhoods as much as 40 percent from where the values were a few years ago," said Dan Sawyers, a realtor with ReMax Premiere Group of Winston-Salem.

"It's very unusual," said John Burgiss, Forsyth County tax collector. "It's not something that happens. Usually it's the other way around. Usually markets appreciate."

The next tax reassessment will take place in 2014. If values continue to decline, the county could be facing a $20 million gap in property tax revenue.

To maintain the current budget, the county would have two options on either extreme: raise property taxes roughly $60 on the average 150 thousand dollar home, or make $20 million in cuts from county departments.

The county has slashed 30 jobs in the past two years, and commissioners said the only departments left to make drastic cuts in are social services, the sheriff's office and county parks.

Since the reassessment is still two years off, the shortfall could be less if property values start to increase again, city officials said.