3,500 want Fayette to re-assess their properties

Wed, 04/08/2009 - 10:50am
By: Ben Nelms

Approximately 3,500 Fayette County property owners — 23 times the usual yearly number — want their properties re-assessed.

Concerned by the burst housing bubble’s effect on their tax bills, they filed paperwork with the Fayette County Tax Assessor’s office before the April 1 deadline to get their property re-assessed — downward, for the most part.

The applications they filed will trigger reviews of their properties’ values and possible re-assessments.

Almost all property in Fayette has increased in assessed value during the past decade, but the precipitous decline in the housing market nationwide in the past year has affected actual sales of homes, with many — if not most — properties selling for significantly less than in previous years.

Tax Assessor Joel Denton said Monday his office received approximately 3,500 residential and 300 commercial applications. Fayette County has approximately 42,000 residences. His office on average received about 150 such requests annually in years past.

In a related issue, the April 3 passage of House Bill (HB) 233 declares a moratorium on increasing the assessed value of property from Jan. 1, 2009 until Jan. 1, 2011.

Assessments of fair market value are significant because property taxes are based on 40 percent of fair market value multiplied by the millage rate.

The “return of value” application states what the homeowner believes to be the fair market value of the property, said Tax Commissioner George Wingo.

“When they do that, it obligates the tax assessor to review their account and tell the taxpayer whether he agrees or disagrees with that value,” Wingo said. “And if the tax assessor disagrees, the homeowner can appeal.”

Wingo said there are several local criteria upon which the assessor’s office would base the decision on the fair market value, such as comparable home sizes and sales of comparable homes. Sales are the best measure, Wingo said, because they reflect the agreement between a willing seller and a willing buyer.

Assessors also look at the geographical area in which the home is located, whether densely or sparsely populated, along with factors such as square footage and the type material with which the home is constructed, Wingo said.

The assessor’s office will send a new assessment notice to the homeowner once the property review has been completed. The homeowners can appeal the assessor’s decision with the board of equalization if they do not agree with the assessment, Wingo said, adding that the homeowner should bring all necessary documentation to present to the board.

If the homeowner is still in disagreement, the equalization board’s decision can be appealed to Fayette County Superior Court.

Commenting about the possibility that several homes in a given neighborhood might be revalued downward after review, Denton said his office would then take a look at the assessed values in that entire neighborhood.

Denton said the tentative date for completing the reviews and sending tax notices is May 1.

The Georgia House and Senate Friday passed HB 233 that establishes a moratorium on increases in assessed value of properties from January 2009 through January 2011. The bill, yet to be signed by Gov. Sonny Perdue, does not prohibit assessed values from decreasing.

The General Assembly finds that the citizens and property owners of this state are experiencing a crisis in the reduction of value of tangible property of unprecedented magnitude and that it is in the best interests of this state that immediate action be taken to secure the economic stability of all Georgians, the bill said.

Local governments for many years now have benefitted from ever-increasing assessed values of properties. The result was increased tax revenue for the governments while keeping the same or nearly the same tax millage rates in place.

Officials for years have boasted about “holding the line” on local tax rates while receiving increasing amounts of tax dollars at those same rates because of increases in assessed values.

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Submitted by MrBeef on Thu, 04/09/2009 - 9:36pm.

Do you not understand that they will collect the same tax from you no matter what your house is worth? It's called the millage rate, if the properties are all lowered in value, then the millage rate will go up so that the tax remains the same.

What worries me, is they will lower the value for the people that complain, so then when they raise the millage rate to recoup the money, that will intern make those of us that did not get re assesed, pay even more taxes. So, we get screwed.

The values should just be left alone, they don't matter, once again I will say, you are going to pay the taxes no matter what your house is worth. If they cut ALL values in half, then they will turn around and double the millage rate, they would have to, to get the money needed.

Submitted by Spyglass on Wed, 04/08/2009 - 11:51am.

the County has on it now, it's worth more, and I know it. That's always been my outlook on tax assessments.

Bud Wiser's picture
Submitted by Bud Wiser on Wed, 04/08/2009 - 8:02am.

I am one who filed for property tax assessment re-evaluation. My thought is that with as many as did the same, a millage increase to cover a shortfall, as so gloomily projected by Robert Morgan, will not happen.

It will not happen, because the voters will vociferously object, then vote to oust anyone involved in a tax hike in the next election. Those who think this ineffective, should re-read what the county is trying to do to beef up their retirement after their terms are up....a premature ejection from office could jeopardize that cushion.

Spending cuts will come. They have to. Reckless stupidity like that exhibited by the federal government cannot and will not continue unabated, and unpunished at the polls. It most certainly will not survive at the local level, local politicians are cheap to replace, and they know it.

The free ride is coming to an end in one of two ways: catastrophic economic collapse, or voter revolution and rejection of the incumbents, from both parties.

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Wed, 04/08/2009 - 5:22am.

How many tax dollars are we going to spend on 3500 assessment appeals?

Of course values have decreased and this is what they will find - about 30% loss. Then the county commission will say "We can't pay our bills unless we raise the milage rate" and they will do so and blame it on declining value. Then the 3500 will pay exactly the same dollar amount in taxes as they did before - but they will have forced government to lower the value of their house.

Does anyone seriously think there is a different outcome? Who is dumb enough to believe that their tax bill will be lowered and government will REDUCE their spending? Huh? Anyone?

Why not save the time and money and pass a blanket resolution that acknowledges values have dropped 30% (or whatever number you like) and then raise the milage rate to cover the shortfall. Is that too logical or should we just spend thousands of taxpayer dollars for no reason?

Submitted by skyspy on Wed, 04/08/2009 - 6:43am.

Everyone knows that our government leaders will not decrease spending. They will push through any plan to spend money as long as they get a kick back from it. Starting with the by-pass to nowhere.

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Wed, 04/08/2009 - 7:05am.

If the county commission's cookie jar is not going to completely refilled for a couple years due to lower assessments, let's make them save some money by killing that stupid by-pass idea.

I know Maxwell and Horgan read these blogs - not sure about the others. Any comments guys?

cogitoergofay's picture
Submitted by cogitoergofay on Tue, 04/07/2009 - 4:59pm.

Shame on me. Being a good citizen and not appealing my taxes was, in hindsight, a sign of my own ignorance and poor stewardship over our money.

Yes, the tax assessor, the county commission and the school board have done a double increase in taxes every single year we have lived here. But now, with values clearly down they ignored the market and kept going up.

I thought about appealing. I thought I would be a good citizen and let it go. It turns out that the 3,500 that appealed were smarter and, perhaps, better citizens than me for having stood up and challenged.

I applaud those of you that appealed.

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