Having bought, sold and appraised properties in Jefferson County for an excess of 30 years, I was extremely upset by the recent tax assessments I received. These assessments and the way they were formulated seem to contradict not only the market conditions, but everything I have learned about the appraisal process over the past 30 years.
How is it that properties in Jefferson County have risen 100 percent or in one case 1,000 percent in a year of such turmoil in the real estate market? Many properties sold in 2008 for less than their previous assessed valued in 2007. How can any increase be justified?
Why is it that the Jefferson County Commissioners and the Jefferson County Board of Assessors elected to pay $325,000 plus to the company of the wife of a Georgia Department of Revenue employee involved with Jefferson County to do these assessments? It must be noted that this company that did the re-valuations was not ever in existence until the contract was signed by the county to pay them. We have a full time assessorís department paid to perform these evaluations.
Please check your assessments and feel comfortable with your values because they will be with you for the next few years. Your bill will increase by several hundred dollars because of the elmination of the Governorís Homeowners Relief Act, and you can bet a millage rate hike is coming in the near future.
In conclusion, I cannot understand the hiring of a connected outside company to do the countyís evaluations and feel comfortable in saying we were in better shape as far as conformity and values before the powers that be elected to spend our tax money ($325,000 plus) for what I consider questionable results.
Emory Bargeron, Jr.
assessments and process
It is apparent that many residents of Jefferson County are concerned over their assessment for 2009. After reviewing the assessments of the few properties I am involved with and hearing the concerns of several property owners I can see reason for their concern.
There have been many conversations and many reasons given for the assessments. I think it is important that the residents have a better understanding of the 2009 assessment process and as many questions as possible be answered. I am not a property adjuster or in real estate, I am just a resident of Jefferson County who is very concerned over the events that have caused so many to be upset and angered. I have suggested a town meeting to help clarify the many questions that have been brought to my attention over the recent assessments. The people of Jefferson County deserve to understand why many property values have increased 70 percent to 700 percent during the worst economic time since the Great Depression and the overall real estate market has dropped 35 percent to as much as 60 percent in most other parts of the U.S. They need to understand why their taxes will be going up at a time when most households cannot afford additional unexpected expenses. It is especially hard to accept assessments as reflecting ďfair market valueĒ when there are houses that are listed for sale at less than their 2009 assessed value and have been on the market for more than a year.
The first concern was the understanding that Jefferson County was under a court order by the state to reevaluate certain property. It was also the understanding of many residents that the state required the county to hire an outside agency to perform these reevaluations or be fined $50,000. After some questions, it is my understanding that while the county was under a court order to reevaluate one of the 12 points they are required by by state law to comply with, it was not mandated by the state that an outside firm be hired to do these reevaluations. The county would only be fined if it did not comply with the evaluation in the required time. It was the decision of the county commission to hire an outside firm to do the reevaluations at a cost of $329,000. It appears it was the decision of the county to pay $329,000 to an outside firm to avoid a possible $50,000 fine.
What is of more concern is the county lost two experienced appraisers because the county was unwilling to pay them competitive wages. With these additional appraisers on staff our local appraisal office would have been better able to do the reevaluations from within the county and an outside firm would not have been necessary. With property taxes being the primary source of revenue for the county and property assessment one of the two aspects of calculating property tax, you would think that competitive pay would not be compromised for qualified staff. Also, with the sensitivity that is associated with property taxes and its importance to the county for revenue, the appraiserís office would never be compromised because of lack of qualified staff or funds to do its job adequately. I also feel the citizens of Jefferson County are better served having their affairs handled from within the county and not by outside influences. With all the questions that have been raised over the assessments and all the inconsistencies and discrepencies that appear obvious, you have to question the experience and credibility of the company the county hired to assess our property. Residents were angered because they could not make sense of their assessments. I have to agree because mine made no sense at all and after reviewing other assessments, made even less. I do not know much about the firm hired to assess our property but I feel the residents have the right to know the qualifications of the company that has such a major role in determining the taxes they will pay and cost the county $329,000. I feel we as residents deserve to know more about the company and the experience of their personnel.
What also has to be considered with the recent assessments is the consequences for the county. With some of the values I have heard, property owners will think long and hard before making any improvements to their property. If assessments can go up during these economic times at the levels they have, everyone will call and ask if any change they make will be considered an improvement or maintenance. People will think twice before building a home in Jefferson County and businesses will make their own assessment of taxes before bringing a business to Jefferson County or relocating key employees to this area. Sales tax will fall because no one will buy materials for any improvements to their property and as more money is required for taxes, there will be less money for anything else.
These assessments have the real potential to cause our county to stagnate and decline and the primary source for generating revenue for the county may well be the reason for county revenue to fall. The real concern for property owners is if revenue does decline the only area county government can look for the money to run the county is through raising the millage rate, putting more pressure on property owners.
It is important that every property owner who has concerns over their 2009 assessments appeal the assessment. It is not hard and the staff at our county tax assessorís office are very helpful and friendly. There is no reason for concern or to be intimidated by the appeal process, it is easy and the assessorís office will provide necessary assistance.
We as property owners have to express our concerns. It is important that this situation be discussed and questions and concerns be addressed. I welcome any comments and would like to see our county government address these issues.
The citizens of Jefferson County deserve to have a complete understanding of how and why many will have to pay considerably more taxes than just the homestead exemption. I appreciate the tax assessorís office keeping the citizens of Jefferson County informed on the loss of the homestead exemption. I can at least understand that the state giveth and the state taketh away. I can understand that during these economic times the state had little choice in repealing the tax credit in order to generate necessary tax revenue. The key is that this can be understood. Many issues concerning the 2009 assessments are not as easy to understand. The tax assessorís office is correct, we need to be prepared to pay more taxes but the homestad exemption is the least of many property ownersí concerns.
Judge should be a lawyer
As many are aware, the election to fill the position of Probate Court Judge of Jefferson County is scheduled for Tuesday, June 16. At this point who hasnít seen the many signs lining the roadways and the various political advertisements appearing in this paper? There are a total of six candidates running for the office. Once you cut through all the rhetoric and posturing, you will find that three of these candidates hold law degrees and are practicing attorneys. I believe Jefferson County would be best served if the office of Probate Judge is filled by a candidate who is an attorney. The issues in the Probate Court all revolve around legalities. A probate judge should have the education and ability to read the law regarding probate matters and interpret those laws properly for matters coming before the court. These laws can change annually and can be affected by case law coming down from higher court decisions that have been appealed from the probate court. Tyler C. Mahaffey has been representing clients as an attorney in probate court for over 12 years. He is well versed in probate law and procedure. He requires no on-the-job training. Tyler is a conscientious and hard-working individual who will get the job done. Tyler is the right choice for Probate Judge of Jefferson County. Please vote on June 16, 2009.