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Tax values to cease and freeze

The moratorium on property tax assessment increases covers a three year period, rather than two years as it appears at first glance. HB 233, now being reconsidered by the House after Senate approval with changes, would place a two year moratorium on property tax value increases, freezing them at their current levels or less across the state. It would be retroactive to Jan. 1 and continue until the second Monday in January, 2011. Association of County Commissioners legislative spokesperson Clint Mueller said the third year comes into effect because under state law, all assessments for tax digest purposes are the value of the property as of Jan. 1. He said the moratorium would no longer be in effect in 2012 ‘and we’d be able to adjust assessments where they ought to be.’ This moratorium only applies to assessed values for the collection of property taxes for local governments and schools. It does not apply to the assessed values used for the collection of Georgia property taxes. Because the moratorium will not apply to state property taxes, county taxpayers, through local boards of assessors, must bear the additional cost of purchasing and implementing expensive software to track two assessed values for every property in their tax digest ‘“  one value for county, city and school tax purposes and a separate value for state property taxes, according to ACCG. ’It will set us back in time again,’ said Pike County manager Steve Marro. ‘It mandates we re-appraise all parcels in the county during that time frame and absorb the costs to do so in-house. While this may be a good thing in those areas where the county has kept up with the times, Pike County has not and we’ll once again be placed in a holding pattern for years.’ For any re-appraisal that is a devaluation, the homeowner is given that credit. However, for any evaluations that increase the county must not increase unless they are for items such as additions, new car garages, home improvements and remodeling. An increase in valuation due to an increase in the property value that does not include improvement is not allowed during the freeze. However, the state can use that increase in determining its one-fourth mill it is due. ’I do not see this as a good thing for Pike County residents. We’d have been better off to have passed a bill that allows for a maximum of 3% or the consumer price index, whichever is greater,’ Marro said. ‘With a 3% process in place there would be no sticker-shock to the taxpayer when we come out of this economic mess and have to re-value.’ He said the reassessment freeze will force the county to look at an increase in the millage rate for any necessities or emergencies. ’The tax system in Georgia is broken and needs fixing from the bottom up. What is the legislature proposing we do after we pull out of this economic devaluation?’ he continued. He also questions the legality of the bill, noting it appears to be a challenge to home rule. ’Short-term panic approaches have never solved a problem because we have the ability to see a policy’s effect afterward the crisis is over. This is most evident by the huge number of tax bills up there and lack of understanding on the effects they will cause local governments,’ he said.

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