2019 Property Tax Reappraisal Communications

Framing an Issue Conversation Using Quality Content

The Challenge

The DCTAO called on Relate Advocacy to build awareness and understanding of its 2019 property tax reappraisal process. 

Durham County was making significant adjustments to its reappraisal timeline. It typically used an eight-year reappraisal cycle. But its most recent reappraisal was just three years prior. And the county announced that, after 2019, it would shift to four-year cycles.

Property reappraisals often create communications challenges. Residents immediately equate rising home values to rising tax bills, which is not necessarily the case.

Executing another reappraisal so quickly was also sure to raise concerns from a multitude of taxpayers whose property values had skyrocketed along with Durham’s growth. Since the county’s growth rate varied across neighborhoods, others would have concerns about tax fairness.

Relate’s challenge was to explain the value of the reappraisal process and decouple it from residents’ property tax bills.

The Target Audiences 

Our audiences included both taxpayers and their influencers:

  • County property owners (residential, commercial and agricultural) 
  • Homeowner’s associations
  • Realtors 
  • Business and economic leaders 
  • Durham County elected officials, staff and employees

The Strategy

  • The first part of our strategy was to build and maintain taxpayers’ awareness of, and confidence in, the reappraisal process by connecting it to the people managing it. Having trust in the people managing the reappraisal process would earn taxpayers’ trust for the process and its results.
  • Given the potential for more taxpayer concern with the shortened reappraisal cycle, the second part of our strategy was to use two tracks for our issue education messaging:
    • Track 1 provided the necessary background on the reappraisal process, including the timeline, major milestones, etc.
    • Track 2 established that the reappraisal process was not an effort to collect more tax revenue. Rather, it was the first part of a larger, elected official-led conversation about the county’s priorities and how those priorities should be funded.

The Execution

Relate produced all of the DCTAO’s reappraisal materials including brochures, FAQs, emails and mail pieces. We partnered with the county’s social media team to create posting calendars for Facebook and Twitter and produce the necessary content.

But delivering on our strategy to create connections to the people managing the reappraisal process demanded that we avoid starting our communications with the standard brochure mailer.

Instead, we began with a video that we wrote, directed and produced. This video included our two-track messaging and featured several members of the DCTAO team. By investing in video, the DCTAO was able to immediately frame the issue conversation around its message.

The result was a reappraisal process that, despite its potential for controversy, produced the same level of questions and feedback as the county’s previous cycles.