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July 24, 2008 Issue

Appeal deadline approaches
Mitchell's Homemade Music
Commission to increase millage rate to 13 mills
Officers warn of multiple area car thefts

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Appeal deadline approaches

By Jessica Newberry
Staff Writer

On June 16, the Jefferson County Board of Assessors mailed assessment notices to residents whose property has undergone a change in value. Property owners have until Thursday, July 31, to appeal the assessment.

As of Monday, July 21, 160 individual parcel appeals had been filed by 106 landowners, according to the Tax Assessor’s Office.


“Last year we had over 300 appeals,” said Chief Appraiser George Rachels. “We don’t really know why we had so many last year. The biggest issue is people not understanding their assessment notice and getting worked up before they come in.”

Rachels said that property owners are welcome to visit the Tax Assessor’s Office at the Jefferson County Courthouse for assistance.

“If anyone has a question, they can call or come by the office, and we’d be happy to help,” he said. “If there is an error on our part such as assigning the wrong access/desirability code, we can fix it without an appeal. It just needs to be brought to our attention so we can adjust it.”

In order to appeal, the property owner’s petition should be based on one of three reasons: taxability, uniformity or value.

Taxability concerns whether the property is taxable or can qualify for an exemption.

Uniformity involves a comparison of the property value in question to properties similar in location and desirability.

Value considers whether the assigned property value is below or above a reasonable amount.

After selecting a basis for petition, the appeal should be submitted in writing to the Board of Assessors, identifying the property by map and parcel number.

The property will be reviewed and changes will be made or the Board of Assessors will set a hearing date. If the issue is not resolved at this hearing, the property owner can appeal to the Board of Equalization and then to Jefferson County Superior Court.

“The Board of Tax Assessors and the Board of Equalization get most appeals resolved,” said Rachels. “In the last five years, only one or two have been to Superior Court.”

Understanding Your Assessment

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 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.

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.

At the bottom of each assessment, a reason is listed for any change in value. 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.

For more information, visit the Jefferson County Tax Assessor’s Office or www.qpublic.net/ga/jefferson.

Mitchell's Homemade Music

Mitchell had its first Music Fest of the summer Saturday, July 12, on the grounds in front of the Mitchell Depot Historic Museum. Performances include local bluegrass groups and attract people from nearby counties. On this day, David Boggs performed a comedy routine. There is no charge to attend these events.


Commission to increase millage rate to 13 mills

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

In a called meeting held Monday, July 21, the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners voted to increase the county’s millage rate to 13 mills.

Currently, this is tentative as there must be three public hearings on this issue.


The first hearing is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 4, at 10 a.m. The second hearing will be Thursday, Aug. 7, at 9 a.m. The third and final hearing will be Tuesday, Aug. 12, at 6:45 p.m.

All meetings will be at the commissioners’ conference room at 217 East Broad St., Louisville. The final vote will be after the third hearing at 7 p.m.

“We are going up basically one mill over last year,” Jefferson County Administrator Paul Bryan said.

“Fuel price increases and a health insurance increase and those things are beyond our control,” he said. “The (tax) digest went down and the reason is the countywide reval.”

“The digest went down $26 million,” Commissioner Tommy New said. The gross digest for the county in 2007 was $553,338,309. The gross digest for 2008 is $527,306,157, making the actual difference slightly more than $26 million.

Revenue from real and personal property went from $505,384,101 in 2007 to $478,342,766 in 2008. Other decreases include that of mobile homes, from $9,257,783 in 2007 to $8,716,853 in 2008, and that of timber, from $4,690,185 in 2007 to $4,513,508 in 2008.

“This is the tightest budget we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Bryan said, who has been the county administrator since March 2003.

The only commissioner who did not approve the motion to increase the millage rate to 13 mills was Johnny Davis. Davis opposed the motion but refused to state his reason.

“I keep my comments to myself,” he said.

Officers warn of multiple area car thefts

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Two local law enforcement agencies are working together to find out who has been stealing vehicles from people’s yards.

The Wrens Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said this week that at least 10 vehicles have been taken from the city of Wrens or areas in the county.


David Leonard, an investigator with the WPD, said the thefts have occurred from the Louisville area toward the northern end of the county.

“Since April of this year, we’ve had several vehicle thefts,” said Lt. Robert Chalker, an investigator with the JCSO.

Chalker said the vehicles have been recovered at salvage yards in Richmond County where the vehicles bring about $10 per 100 pounds.

“So far we have had 10 officially reported. We’ve heard that there are others that have not been reported,” Chalker said.

Most of the vehicles have been in someone’s yard, unlicensed and uninsured for years, according to Leonard.

Some of the vehicles have been recovered, but some had already been crushed by the salvage yard, the officers said.

Leonard said the value of the vehicles is between $1,500 and $3,000.

Chalker said the highest amount paid to the thief so far has been $470.

“A number of these vehicles have been transported by a back car trailer pulled by a 1995 single cab Chevrolet pickup,” said Lt. Clark Heibert, another JCSO investigator.

“This doesn’t mean all of them have been,” he said.

Chalker said he has been in touch with Sen. J.B. Powell (D-23) about changing the laws regarding what information salvage yards must obtain from the seller of a vehicle.

A person selling a vehicle older than a 1996 model is not required to have a title, according to Chalker.

“They just sign a paper saying they have the authority to sell the vehicle,” he said.

Leonard said the officers are actively tracking down leads.

The officers said they encourage anyone who has had a vehicle stolen and not reported that loss to come forward.

Chalker said a 2004 Dodge pickup was stolen from Jefferson County sometime Sunday night or Monday morning.

“It was last seen at 10 p.m. Sunday night and was reported missing Monday morning at 5 a.m. It was discovered in Richmond County and had been burned,” he said.

The truck was taken from Stapleton and would have traveled through Wrens on the way to Richmond County, according to Chalker.

“It had a trailer with a mounted pressure washer on it,” Chalker said. “The trailer and pressure washer are still missing.”

The value of the vehicle, trailer and pressure washer is about $25,000, he said.

Leonard said anyone who has a vehicle stolen should report it immediately.

“We need some sort of vehicle identification, such as the most recent tag information, insurance information, the VIN, a title or a bill of sale,” he said.

Anyone with any information regarding these thefts is urged to call Wrens Police Department at 706-547-3000 or the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office at 478-625-7538.

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