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Tax board explains hike in property assessments
FB DCN Government County

Tax assessment notices went out June 4, and many county residents have noticed an upswing in their property value assessments since last year. If you belong in that category, there are a few reasons why those values have increased.

Last May, the board of commissioners voted to spend over $500,000 to hire a company to perform a mass appraisal of all real and personal property in the county, approximately 15,000 parcels. The appraised value is simply the estimate of what the property is worth.

Normally, the tax assessor's office splits the county into thirds and only one third of the property assessments are adjusted every year. However, the Department of Revenue states that the county is supposed to perform a mass appraisal, or countywide revaluation, every 10 years.

The last countywide revaluation was done in 2006, and due to the growth that the county has seen and the length of time since the last total assessment, the county contracted with Georgia Mass Appraisal Solutions and Services, or GMASS, to conduct the two-year process.

 Residential and agricultural assessments began last June and were completed just before the tax assessment notices were mailed out. The commercial and industrial revaluations should be completed by next summer.

Sam Gutherie, chair of the tax assessor’s board, said that the board voted May 29 to accept the new assessments by GMASS for all residential and agricultural properties in the county.

“Someone came in the other day and theirs had gone up 44 percent, others were less, it’s raising a lot of eyebrows in the county,” he said. “But a lot of the properties had previously been appraised well under what’s considered market value.”

The demand for housing in Dawson County has grown as the population has, and the value of property has increased as a result. The US Census Bureau has estimated that the county population has grown by 2,049 people since 2010, an increase of about 9.1 percent.

Assessors establish the fair market value of taxable real and personal properties in the county based on what is happening in the marketplace. GMASS used data from 350 sales in 2017 as a guide for the assessments.

According to numbers supplied by GMASS, the total market value for all residential and agricultural properties in the county went up by 15 percent from 2017, from $2.97 billion to $3.4 billion. Residential market values, totaling 12,806 parcels, went up 16 percent, from approximately $2.4 billion to $2.8 billion. Agricultural, totaling 524 parcels, went up 15 percent.

Gutherie said he expects similar increases next year when the commercial and industrial property appraisals are completed. Hopefully, he said, this will enable the board of commissioners to lower the millage rate.

“A lot of people moved here with the understanding that this was a laid back county, very beautiful, and it wasn’t growing like Forsyth and some of those other counties,” he said. “But now we’re getting that growth and our sales tax revenue is showing that too with people coming here to go to the stores. With the combination of this and sales tax revenue, I’ll be disappointed if the commission doesn’t lower the millage rate. They haven’t raised it in a number of years but they haven’t lowered it in the eight years I’ve lived here.”

The millage rate is set each year by the county commission and the board of education. Both have a separate millage rate that is used to determine the property taxes they will collect.

One mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property value. Assessed property value is 40 percent of the fair market value.  For a house that is worth $100,000, its assessed value is $40,000. If the millage rate in the county were 25 mills, the property tax on that house would be $1,000.

The county’s millage rate has been set at 8.138 since 2004. Each year the commissioners decide whether to keep the millage rate the same, increase it, or roll it back.

Rolling the millage rate back means that property taxes would be kept the same as the previous year, so if your home did not increase in assessed value in that time, your taxes would stay the same.

If you believe you are being unfairly taxed, there is an appeal process that you can go through. Appeals are required to be filed in writing and must be submitted by July 19, 2018, according to Chief Tax Appraiser Elaine Garrett.

Copies of the appeal form are available in the Tax Assessor’s Office on the first floor of the Dawson County Government Center, or online at the Georgia Department of Revenue website.

Garrett said her office has answered at least 700 phone calls since the notices were mailed out, and have seen an increase in foot traffic as well. As of close of business June 11, 24 appeals had been submitted as a result of assessment notices, she said.

“We encourage folks to call the office or come in if they have any questions concerning their property values,” Garrett said. “We will be glad to take the time to discuss the assessment with them.”