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Upset about your Dawson County property tax assessment? Here’s how to appeal.
new courthouse
The Dawson County Government Center is located at 25 Justice Way in downtown Dawsonville.

NOTE: DCN has updated its article about property tax exemptions to reflect the full scope of exemptions that eligible seniors can apply for in Dawson County.

Many Dawson County landowners are expressing shock after getting their estimated property tax bills this past week. 

“I believe the toughest part of this process for taxpayers, myself included, is getting the notice with the estimated taxes on it based on the previous year’s millage rate,” Dawson County Chief Appraiser Elaine Garrett said in a May 23 email. “The Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners have not set the millage rate for this year.”

DCN has compiled a guide to help property owners navigate the assessment appeals process. 

This story continues below.

Learn more 

When were assessments sent?

The county sent out annual property tax assessments on May 16.

What office sends out assessments? Who collects property taxes?

That would be the Tax Assessor’s Office, which is tasked with assessing property at fair market value according to state-set standards. 

The Tax Commissioner’s Office is responsible for billing, collecting and disbursing local taxes, in addition to their motor vehicle tag and title duties.

What’s the deadline for appealing?

People can appeal their assessment notices until June 29, 2023, according to the Dawson County Tax Assessor’s webpage.

How can you appeal?

People can appeal their assessments by completing the appeal form listed under the Tax Assessor’s “Supporting Documents” and submitting it in person or by mail. 

The form can be mailed to: Dawson County Tax Assessor, 25 Justice Way, Ste. 1201, Dawsonville, GA 30534

After receiving the assessment notice, a property owner can appeal within 45 days of receipt–in this case, by June 29.

That appeal is then filed with the county’s Board of Tax Assessors, who then reviews it. For this part, a county property appraiser will visit the property to review it and verify the information the county has on record. 

Following this review, the board tells the taxpayer of its decision. If the board makes no changes, an appeal would automatically be sent on to the county’s Board of Equalization. That board then schedules and conducts a hearing to render a decision. 

A taxpayer still in disagreement with the assessment may appeal to the Superior Court, an arbitrator or hearing officer. The Board of Tax Assessors has more details about this procedure.

What about exemptions?

The window to apply for specialized exemptions, such as those for seniors, is January 1 through April 1 each year. Standard homestead exemption can be applied for throughout the year.

DCN has published an update in response to questions specifically about senior exemptions.

What’s the math behind property taxes?

Property taxes are determined as an ad valorem tax or according to value. Another key factor in your bill is the tax or millage rate. A one-mill tax rate means a tax liability of $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value, which is 40% of the actual fair market value. 

The Board of Commissioners most recently rolled back the county’s millage rate to 7.2225 mills, (.0072225) while the Board of Education scaled back theirs to 14.2 mills (.0142). 

The Dawsonville City Council has consistently voted to roll back the city’s millage rate to zero in recent years.

The assessed value is multiplied by the millage rate as a decimal to calculate the estimated county or school system property taxes. 

Millage rates have not yet been set for this year and tend to be set in the July-to-August timeframe, District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines said in a May 23 phone call. 

“When a tax digest goes up, there is a rollback form completed each year to let the taxing authorities know what millage rate would provide a net neutral gain from the previous year. That does not mean that either will or should roll it back to this amount,” Garrett said.

However, the chief appraiser did call the millage rates “the last piece of the puzzle for all of our tax bills for 2023.” 

“We have to include the estimate of taxes by law yet the appeals are based on value and uniformity.  “If your value is correct, we have done our job. If you believe the value is incorrect, then please appeal before the deadline so we have an opportunity to look over your concern and correct [it] if needed,” Garrett added. “As far as the taxes go, we all have to wait to see what the final millage rates are before we actually know what impact they will have.”

Why do taxes increase despite millage rate rollbacks?

Both the BOC and BOE rolled back their tax rates last fall. However, as with last tax year, assessed property values have increased. 

That means both the county and school system are expected to receive more tax revenue.

Property taxes are charged against the owner of the property on January 1, and against the property itself if the owner is not known. Property tax returns are to be filed between January 1 and April 1 with the county tax assessor's office.

What’s driving the increase in property values?

Rising values are influenced by factors including but not limited to ongoing low housing inventory, inflation and increased demand.

Dawson County is the fifth-fastest-growing county of its size in the United States, according to updated U.S. Census Bureau data. Bordering Dawson is another one of the country’s fastest-growing counties of its size, Lumpkin County.  

By the numbers
Residential parcels where property values rose: 12,779 out of 14,202 or about 90%.
Average increase in residential property value: 36.95%
Average increase in individual homes or residential improvement values: 41.96% 
Total property tax appeals filed (as of May 26): 197
Appeals mentioning a property value increase only: 189

Appeals mentioning a value increase and other reasons: 54

What other factors can impact a property’s assessed value?

Location can play a key role in determining the value. Properties in the eastern part of Dawson County saw the greatest increase in assessed values, Garrett said. 

Other considerations that can cause different assessed values include heated area square footage; areas not in a home’s heated portion; finished or unfinished basements; the type of land property–i.e. on Lake Lanier or not; and land size, shape and topography.

“The market value continued the upward trend we have seen in the previous 2 years,” Garrett said. “To complicate things more, Dawson was in a position where we needed to adjust how we looked at the sales in regards to our audit study.”

What about the audit study?

This study comes with the risk of penalty to the county if not in compliance over the course of two cycles (digest reviews are done in three-year cycles). The first compliance failure results in a warning and the second occurrence can result in a $5-per-parcel fine, Garrett said. 

That led to time spent adjusting local sales to bring them to a time frame of January 1, the date of assessment in Georgia.  

“This creates a situation where the office not only had to increase values due to what the market was doing within the year but also catch up from the previous year from not trending through time adjustment in the previous year,” Garrett added.  

The state audit or study done several months ago for Dawson County was for the 2021 digest. When that study’s results were received, the county’s 2022 digest had already been submitted. Had the county gotten the study earlier, Garrett explained that “there is a good chance we would have already dealt with these increases.” 

“To put it as simply as I can, by not trending the sales, the values miss out on roughly six months of movement in the market.  If the market went up 20% in a year and we didn’t trend, we may only have a 10% increase in values by not trending because we are treating the sales early in the year the same as the ones later in the year,” Garrett said. “They all have the same impact.”

Garrett used the example of a subdivision with four January sales averaging $300,000 and four more sales in December averaging $360,000. Under the old method, these properties would have been valued in the $330,000 range because the dates would not have mattered.

“This did not bode well for the audit study but retained reliability for taxation because it was being applied uniformly across the board,” Garrett said. “However, by trending the sales to a January 1 date, these properties would see a valuation of $360,000.”

“That is doubling the percentage of increase simply based [on] the methodology used, not to mention having to basically make up for half a year from the previous year of not trending,” Garrett added. “Luckily, once completed, we should see market adjustments only from this point forward.”

This article will be updated as more information becomes available.