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August 2, 2007 Issue

Appeal deadline approaches
The Appeal Process
County sees nearly $500 per acre increase in property values
House fire contained

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Appeal deadline approaches

• Citizens who wish to appeal their property assessments must file written appeal to county by Aug. 13

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Only those property owners in Jefferson County who have had a change in property value should have received an assessment notice from the county’s Board of Assessors, according to Jefferson county Chief Appraiser George Rachels.

“The majority of taxpayers in the county received an assessment notice,” he said, explaining that in any given year about 3 to 5 percent of taxpayers will not see a change in their assessment.

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Anyone wishing to file an appeal has until Aug. 13 to do so. Appeals must be in writing and must be based on at least one of only three issues, Rachels said.

Tax bills are not scheduled to be mailed until the latter part of October, with payments due within 60 days, he said.

Taxpayers can base an appeal on taxability, or whether the property is taxable; uniformity, or how the property value compares with the value of similar properties; and value, or whether the value is too high or too low, Rachels said. “My taxes are too high is not a reason to appeal,” he said. “The value has to be too high.” Rachels said between 50 and 60 appeals were filed last year.

Of those, all but one was resolved by either the Board of Assessors or the Board of Equalization. Only one taxpayer appealed to the next level.

“We did have one guy who wanted to go to superior court; but, it was thrown out of court because he did not fi le the appeal properly,” Rachels said, adding he would advise anyone considering an appeal to the court system to consult with an attorney.

“An attorney would be more familiar with the legal process and better able to assist the taxpayer through the court system.

“The board (of assessors) has already voted on the land schedule as well as the assessment notices.

Whenever you come in for an appeal, you have to show there is an error. Just because you don’t like the value or you don’t like the tax amount is not a reason for a successful appeal. There has to have been an error or oversight made.”

Rachels said so far this year, there have been about 70 appeals filed. “And we’ve got another week or two to go,” he said.

An appeal goes first to the Board of Assessors. If the issue is not resolved to the taxpayer’s satisfaction, the next step is to appeal to the Board of Equalization.

The final step is to appeal to the state court.

Rachels hesitated to say what areas of the county are at the highest value because there are so many variables. But he did say some communities in Wrens are probably among the highest, explaining this is because of factors such as the quality of building materials used in the homes and the large size of the lots.

“Accessibility and desirability play a factor in the valuation,” Rachels said and explained that these include qualities such as whether the lot is land-locked, sits on a paved road and is in what is considered a good neighborhood.

“In other words, are values holding or going up,” he said. Rachels’ office requested an extension for filing the tax digest and the State Department of Revenue extended the filing date to Sept. 30.

Rachels said that all land that is in conservation use saw a 3-percent increase.

“Fair market value saw a 45-percent increase in value based on the sales ratio study, to bring it in line with the 40 percent value,” he said. “My assessed value is lower than what land is selling for, therefore I have to raise the value to get it within the 40-percent bracket of what land is selling for.”

Rachels said any changes in the taxpayer’s property may be cause for appeal. “We’ve got to have correct information about the property, its location, access, whether there’s a pond on the land, outbuildings, basically everything that affects the value. The size of the lot should be accurate, size of the house – our records have to match what’s there. If your house has burned down (or) you’ve made an addition, that has to be accurate in our records.”

Rachels said during the first three months of each year, taxpayers have the opportunity to file a return in the tax assessor’s office showing any changes that have occurred in the previous year. This helps the agency update their records and ensure accuracy.

“Any changes like that, the taxpayer needs to come into the office and file a return. You’ve paved your driveway, you need to tell us,” Rachels said. The first appeal of your assessment notice is to the county Board of Assessors.

Write a letter to the county tax assessor’s office stating you want to appeal your assessment. Identify your property by map and parcel number. The staff will go out and review the property. If the staff is satisfied that a correction is needed, they will make all necessary changes and notify the taxpayer. Otherwise, the staff forwards the results to the Board of Assessors. The Board of Assessors will set a hearing date. The taxpayer is mailed a notice with a time, date and location of the appeal hearing.

At the hearing, each side makes a presentation to the board. The board makes its ruling at the end of the hearing.

If the taxpayer wants to appeal the Board of Assessors’ decision, the taxpayer can notify the board at the end of the hearing. Otherwise, he can ask for time to consider the next step. In that case, the taxpayer has 21 days to decide. If he wants to continue, he notifies the Board of Assessors that he wants to appeal to the Board of Equalization. This decision is made to the Board of Assessors in writing. This Board forwards the case to the Board of Equalization who sets up a hearing date, time and place and notifies the taxpayer.

Each side presents their case at this hearing. If the taxpayer is not satisfied with that decision, he proceeds to the Superior Court. The taxpayer has to file for this hearing on his own. Chief Tax Assessor George Rachels said he would recommend anybody considering Superior Court to consult with an attorney. As with the other steps in the appeals process, there is a time limit during which the taxpayer may file an appeal.



The Appeal Process

• How to file an appeal on your assessment if you feel it is in error

The first appeal of your assessment notice is to the county Board of Assessors. Write a letter to the county tax assessor’s office stating you want to appeal your assessment.

Identify your property by map and parcel number.

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The staff will go out and review the property. If the staff is satisfied that a correction is needed, they will make all necessary changes and notify the taxpayer.

Otherwise, the staff forwards the results to the Board of Assessors.

The Board of Assessors will set a hearing date.



The taxpayer is mailed a notice with a time, date and location of the appeal hearing.

At the hearing, each side makes a presentation to the board.

The board makes its ruling at the end of the hearing.

If the taxpayer wants to appeal the Board of Assessors’ decision, the taxpayer can notify the board at the end of the hearing.

Otherwise, he can ask for time to consider the next step.

In that case, the taxpayer has 21 days to decide.

If he wants to continue, he notifies the Board of Assessors that he wants to appeal to the Board of Equalization.

This decision is made to the Board of Assessors in writing.

This Board forwards the case to the Board of Equalization who sets up a hearing date, time and place and notifies the taxpayer.

Each side presents their case at this hearing.

If the taxpayer is not satisfied with that decision, he proceeds to the Superior Court.

The taxpayer has to file for this hearing on his own.

Chief Tax Assessor George Rachels said he would recommend anybody considering Superior Court to consult with an attorney.

As with the other steps in the appeals process, there is a time limit during which the taxpayer may file an appeal.



County sees nearly $500 per acre increase in property values

• Understanding your property assessment

By Jessica Newberry
Intern

Jefferson County tax assessment notices were mailed to property owners on Friday, June 29, revealing an approximate $500-per-acre increase in land values across the county.

“Our current sales ratio studies showed that our assessed values were at 33 percent of the fair market value,” said Jefferson County Tax Assessor George Rachels.

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“We adjusted values to 39 percent since we are supposed to be taxing at 40 percent.”

Assessment notices are based on the appraised and assessed values of property.

The fair market appraisal of a piece of property represents its full value.

Georgia property owners are taxed on 40 percent of this amount, which is also known as the assessed value.

Each map and parcel number has its own assessment and tax bill but adjoining pieces of property can be combined onto one bill.

An assessment notice includes the prior year’s value at both fair market and assessed levels for the identified property.

The change from the previous year is also indicated as well as the total values for the current year.

Within the current year’s breakdown, both fair market and assessed land values are listed, followed by the dollar amount that is exempt from taxation.

These exemptions are based on historic or conservation classification or the Freeport exemption for industry.

The non-land value includes any property improvements such as buildings or storage facilities.

The net taxable value is calculated by subtracting exemptions from the land and non-land values. Homestead exemptions and Homeowners’ Tax Relief Grant credits are not taken into account in the net taxable value listed on the assessment notice but will be subtracted before taxes are levied.

There are currently 12 homestead classes that offer exemptions based on age, income and veteran status. The S1 classification offers a $2,000 exemption for an owner’s principal occupied residence.

At the bottom of each assessment, a reason is listed for any change in value. Most of the reason codes reflect improvements to the property such as an added deck, swimming pool or garage. Reasons can also include a combination of parcels, county-wide revaluation or a land value adjustment to reflect the current market.

Taxes will be levied after the Jefferson County Commissioners and the Jefferson County Board of Education have set millage rates. Both entities are currently waiting for the tax digest to be approved, but the Board of Assessors has received an extension until Sept. 30 to submit the digest.

Tax bills will be mailed during the month of October and must be paid within 60 days.

For further information, contact the Jefferson County Board of Assessors at (478) 625-8209.



House fire contained

A house fire in Wadley is contained after extensive damage to the home.

The fire, which occurred between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 25, is thought by Wadley Fire Chief Bruce Logue to have been electrical-based.

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The fire was mostly in the living room, Logue said, although the whole house was full of smoke.

The owner, Diane Lemon Smith, was not at home but arrived while firefighters were still on the scene.

Her son, Anthony Lemon, who lives with Smith, said she has been living in the home, which is on Calhoun Street, about eight or nine years.

Smith complained of chest pains at the scene and was treated at the scene, according to EMS Director Mike Bennett.




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