Taxes will be higher this year
By Carol McLeod
Homeowners should brace themselves for additional property taxes this year as well as next year.
That is what Jefferson County Tax Commissioner Jenny Gordy said in a press release last week.
“The state homestead tax relief grant that funded an increased homestead exemption for homeowners for the last several years will not be available this year. Declining state revenues during the current recession means there is no money for the state to give the tax relief to homeowners,” she said.
Gordy said this will mean a property tax increase of $200 to $300 on the 2009 tax bills for many Georgia homeowners.
“The grant appropriated by the General Assembly and the governor for the last several years to counties, cities and schools had given tax relief to homeowners in the form of a credit on their tax bills. According to legislation passed this year (House Bill 143), the grant will only be made available in the future if state revenues grow at least 3 percent plus the rate of inflation,” Gordy said.
The commissioner said homeowners should start preparing now for the increase.
“It’s unfortunate in slow economic times to have to deliver this message, but homeowners need to know now so they can plan accordingly with their household budgets or make sure that tax escrows are properly funded with their mortgage companies to handle the tax increase,” she said.
The 2009 bills will not go out until September or October. The payments for 2008 were due Dec. 22. The 2009 non-homestead mobile home payments were sent out in February and were due May 1.
Gordy said taxpayers who are not able to pay the full amount they owe should contact her office.
“Taxpayers who owe more than one year of taxes should also call us,” she said.
“We are not set up to make long-term payment arrangements although we will work with taxpayers if at all possible,” Gordy said.
An increase in assessments will also provide property owners with another increase in their tax bill.
Those assessments with changes were sent out from the county’s tax assessor’s office May 8.
If there were not any change on the property, the property owner would not have received an assessment. A lot of assessments were returned for incomplete address, said an office staff member.
Property owners have 45 days during which they can file an appeal, said George Rachels, the county’s chief assessor. There are only three circumstances under which a person may file an appeal, he said.
“Value is one of them. Taxability is another. The third is uniformity,” Rachels said.
“Value is fair market value, what we think the market will bear. We do a mass appraisal, not the fee appraisal that real estate agents do,” he said.
Taxability is whether a property is exempt or nontaxable.
“Like farm equipment is nontaxable,” he said.
Uniformity requires that identical properties are assessed the same.
“If you have a lot and the size of your lot will affect your value now. And the square footage of the house will affect your value. And the quality of work – that’s like if it’s an excellent built house or an average built house or a poor built house. That has to do with the quality of work of the people who built it as well as the quality of the value of the material,” Rachels said.
Rachels said property owners in Jefferson County are not seeing the decreases in value other areas are because local prices continue to rise.
“We haven’t seen those foreclosures here as in New York and California. So we are still having sales and what is selling is still bringing a high price,” he said.
“There are five maps in Wrens that are the highest priced selling land in the county. There’s one map in Louisville that is selling high in the same category that is selling in Wrens,” he said.
“Sales ratio drives everything we do. We have to follow the laws of the state in everything we do,” he said.
Rachels also addressed the homestead exemptions.
“Everybody who has homestead this year, this homestead credit at $218 is not going to be on (the bill). Because they did not fund it in ’08 and they did not fund it in ’09. They went back and said they are going to fund the ’08 but the county still hasn’t gotten the money,” he said.
Anyone who wants to file an appeal should go to the tax assessor’s office in the courthouse in Louisville, Rachels said.
“Come by the office and tell us they want to fill out an appeal form or if they want to call us we will mail out an appeal form,” he said. The office number is 478-625-8209 and is on the assessment notice.
Early voting begins this week
By Carol McLeod
Jefferson County voters were able to start casting their ballots in the race for the county’s probate judge seat. Early voting started Wednesday and will continue through Friday, June 5, Chandrel Evans said last week.
Evans, the county’s registrar, said her office will be open from 8 a.m. until noon and will reopen at 1 p.m., closing for the day at 5 p.m. Early voting will be held only at the registrar’s office located at 302 East Broad St. in Louisville.
Advance voting will begin Monday, June 8, through Friday, June 12. Votes cast during this time also must be cast at the registrar’s office. However, during advance voting Evans said her office will be open throughout the day and will not close for lunch.
The deadline to register to vote in this special election, scheduled for Tuesday, June 16, has passed, Evans said. It was May 18.
Six people have qualified for the position, which was left vacant by the March death of Q.L. Bryant.
The candidates are Charlotte Lewis Gilmore of Louisville who works for Georgia Power; Asholyn Powell Lampp of Bartow, the current Chief Deputy Clerk of the Probate Court; Tyler C. Mahaffey of Wrens, a lawyer and partner in private practice; Marnique Williams Oliver of Louisville, a lawyer and partner in private practice; John J. Pilcher II of Wrens, a lawyer in private practice; and Alton W. Spells Jr. of Louisville, a teacher.
This is a countywide, non-partisan election. When this position is part of a normal election, it is partisan. The winner of the election will also fulfill the position of election superintendent.
In the interim, Judge John Murphy is carrying out the duties of both probate judge and election superintendent. Murphy took over these responsibilities as required by law in his capacity as the county’s state court judge.
“County probate courts exercise exclusive, original jurisdiction in the probate of wills, administration of estates, appointment of guardians and involuntary hospitalization of incapacitated adults and other individuals. All probate court judges administer oaths of office and issue marriage licenses,” states a Georgia Probate website, www.gaprobate.org.
The candidate who wins the election will serve the remainder of Bryant’s term, which ends Dec. 31, 2012.
Under the Red, White and Blue...
Anna Yonchak, 13,along with sister 9-year-old Emily help their father, Robert, place American flags at the Jefferson County Courthouse Monday in honor of Memorial Day. The girls also raised the flag at the flagpole and lowered it to half mast.
Louisville hosts Buzzard Blast this weekend
Get ready for a blast, the Buzzard Blast, which will return to Louisville this year on Saturday, May 30, with a day full of entertainment, food, games and more.
The festival, which is managed by volunteers, was created in 2006 to benefit the downtown Louisville façade program, which includes projects and improvements in awnings, walkways and landscaping.
The day will begin at 8 a.m. with the 5K Road Race beginning at Jefferson Hospital and ending near Helen Clark Memorial Park, where the festivities will continue throughout the day.
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From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Helen Clark Memorial Park, there will be arts, crafts and food vendors, a children’s play area and the State Fire Marshall’s Fire Safety House.
The opening ceremony will be held at 9 a.m. with William Toulson on the stage located on Louisville Academy’s football field.
There will be entertainment from Double Dose Gymnastics, Stephanie’s Dance Explosion, Southern Dance Connection, Cross Community Praise and Worship Band, comedian David Boggs, the Front Porch Blues Band and Ronnie Mullis.
That night, there will be a movie under the stars. A family friendly movie will be shown on a 30-foot outdoor screen on the football field with concessions available. Viewers are asked to bring a lawn chair or blanket.
Though admission into the festival is free, admission to the movie is $3 per person or two canned good items.
Sponsors of Buzzard Blast include the city of Louisville, Jefferson County Board of Commissioners, The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter., WPEH FM 92.1, Jefferson Hospital Foundation, Queensborough National Bank and Trust and John Kitchens Website Design.