Property assessments surge

After several years of sluggish growth, the 2007 Richmond County gross tax digest increased 6 percent, or $275.8 million, according to the county's chief tax appraiser.

 

That means the Augusta Commission will have to decide whether to roll back the property tax rate or leave the rate as it is and determine how to spend an additional $2 million. In either case, the commission will have more tax money to spend.


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The assessed (40 percent) value of taxable property in Richmond County rose from $4.59 billion last year to $4.86 billion this year, according to Chief Appraiser Calvin Hicks.

"Gentlemen, that's good," Mr. Hicks said after presenting preliminary digest figures to the assessors' board Monday.

The real estate digest increased by $82.3 million in noninflationary growth, Mr. Hicks said.

"They actually will be able to collect new taxes on that, and that helps to offset the cost of government," he said. "And there was a $54 million increase in personal property and a $29 million increase in motor vehicles. Very good. A very good year."

Jerry Brigham, the commission's Finance Committee chairman, agreed.

"I'm excited over the increases," he said. "A lot of good things must be happening in Augusta."

The increase means city commissioners will receive $33.01 million in property taxes this year, compared with $31.9 million last year, if they roll back the tax rate to account for inflationary growth and $33.85 million if they don't. But if they don't roll back the tax rate, they must give public notice and hold three public hearings.

Mr. Brigham said he expected a rollback, but City Administrator Fred Russell was less enthusiastic about a possible rollback of the increase that already is in the city budget or the inflationary increase. He noted that the last time the commission rolled back the rate, the city ended up $3 million in the red.

This year's city budget includes a 0.34-mill tax increase that will add about $9 a year onto the property tax bill for a $100,000 house with homestead exemption.

The Richmond County school board's net digest, which has not been completed, will differ from the city's because of different exemptions, Mr. Hicks said.

Assessors Board Chairman Charles Smith attributed this year's growth to better assessing.

"One of the things that has been done is there have been a few more techniques that have been implemented that would allow us to value various properties differently, more correctly, more accurately, more uniformly," he said.

"For example, mobile homes were being valued a certain way, but there is a more uniform standard for mobile homes that determines the values, just as the Blue Book for automobiles. That was introduced here, so that made a difference."

The staff also is getting out of the office to do more inspections, Mr. Smith said.

He attributed the growth and fewer appeals this year to Mr. Hicks' leadership.

The assessors' board also approved the 2007 assessment change notices for personal property Monday. The notices will be mailed June 15.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

INCREASING TAX DIGEST

Richmond County Maintenance and Operations tax Digest, 2006-07: (40 percent values)

20062007
Real property$3.26 billion$3.45 billion
Personal property$994.9 million$1.05 million
Motor vehicles$302 million$331.2 million
Mobile homes$25.5 million$29.1 million
Timber$1.98 million$1.68 million
Heavy-duty equipment$83,573$255,020
Gross Digest$4.59 billion$4.86 billion
Exemptions$543.8 million$575.4 million
Net digest$4.04 billion$4.28 billion

Source: Richmond County Tax Assessor's Office