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Officials plan for drop in tax digest
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Roberts tapped for chief tax assessor


Michael Roberts has been selected from a field of internal candidates to be Dawson County’s next chief tax assessor.


The position was previously held by Clarence Brown, who retired in mid-April.


A Kennesaw State University graduate, Roberts worked for Cherokee County before he was hired as a field technician for the Dawson County Tax Assessors office about nine years ago.


He was promoted to deputy assessor in 2006 and assumed his current role on April 18.


Roberts, 34, said the transition was smooth. 


“Clarence and I have worked side by side the last five years, so basically, everything he was doing, I was doing as well,” he said.


“Last week was slow, but that could change once assessment notices go out, it’s going to pick back up considerably.”

More than a month remains before property tax assessments go out, but local officials are bracing for at least a 10 percent drop in collections.


“We started by having meetings with the different department heads and elected officials to talk with them about ways they can further cut their budgets that have already been cut over the past three years,” said County Manager Kevin Tanner.


Michael Roberts, chief tax assessor, said the county could see 11 to 12 percent less revenue due to a drop in assessment values and a new exemption for seniors age 70 and older.


Approved by voters in November, the measure exempts $120,000 off the assessed value of property for all seniors 70 and older, regardless of income.


“The school system is really going to see the impact from those exemptions,” Roberts said.


Dawson County School Superintendent Keith Porter said the projected reduction, coupled with state cuts, could mean about $4.3 million less in funding. 


Jamie Ulrich, the school system’s finance director, has estimated 2012 revenues will total about $33.1 million, or about $800,000 less than in 2011.


The school board can use the fund balance to offset losses during 2012, but “next year we won’t have an ending fund balance to fall back on,” Porter said.


It recently trimmed the number of school days by two and reduced the work schedules and pay of its employees.


Board members have said an increase in the system’s portion of the millage rate is likely.


The school district has not raised its millage rate — which stands at 13.646 mills for maintenance and operations and .4 mills for bonds — in several years.


A mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property value. Assessed value is 40 percent of actual market value.


Tanner, who is anticipating having between $1.1 and 1.3 million less in the county’s budgets for 2012, said every measure will be taken to avoid an increase in the county government’s portion of the millage rate.


“The county staff, all the elected officials and the board of commissioners are dedicated to making our budget work within the confines of the revenue we anticipate receiving without raising the property tax in the county,” he said.


Commissioner Gary Pichon said officials are “going to have to figure out how to be more efficient.”


“This is going to have to be our pattern for a while to work with less money,” he said.


Property assessments will be sent out near the end of May. For the first time, every property owner will receive one. They will then have 45 days to appeal it.


Previously, property owners received an assessment only when there was a change in ownership or value or if they filed a return with the tax assessor’s office.


Roberts said the majority of property owners will see a change in their property value.


“We know the economy is down,” he said. “Hopefully, that’s going to allow people to see that we are trying.”