AIKEN - Aiken County property owners: That's not your tax bill you've gotten in the mail.
Although you shouldn't send the county a check just yet, you should take a close look at that reassessment notice. You only have 90 days to appeal it if you think the county fouled up how much your property's worth.
Aiken County workers have finally finished reassessing more than 98,000 parcels - required every five years - and are mailing notices to more than 58,000 owners whose property increased by more than $1,000 in value.
The tax bills won't go out for a few more weeks, County Administrator Clay Killian said. Some residents have been confused and have called in with questions.
Some have even mistaken the reassessment notice - which tells the property owner what the county thinks the fair market value is and what their home will be taxed at - for the tax bill.
"We've already had somebody write us a check for about $1,200," said David Gove, the county's interim assessor.
The check was sent back with an explanation, he said, but others have come in. One, he said, "put the staple on top of 'This is not a tax bill,'" which is printed at the top of the reassessment notice.
The real tax bills, Mr. Killian said, should be mailed out in early November.
Property owners have until Jan. 15 to pay that bill or face a penalty for missing the deadline.
Most people will find their overall bill significantly lower with the subtraction of a schools tax. But Mr. Killian noted that they are paying that elsewhere - in an additional sales tax on purchases.
Some property owners will see a tax bill that would have been significantly higher had voters not approved a 15 percent cap on home values, which is essentially a tax cap.
However, only owners of homes with high values will truly benefit from that, Mr. Killian said.
When county officials began the budget process last summer, they didn't fully know how the tax cap would affect the county's spending plan. They have a clearer picture now, although Mr. Killian said they still don't know the full ramifications.
"The tax cap, in my opinion and most of my colleagues' opinions, shifts the burden - the operation of the government - more towards the lower-valued properties on your tax rolls," he said. "That's not to say the bigger, more desirable homes don't pay more in taxes."
They do, he said, but it's not proportional to what the home is truly valued at or what the property owners' income is.
Furthermore, because of the tax cap, some property tax bills are higher than they would have been had the cap not passed.
As it stands, the county's millage is set at 74.2. On a home valued at $100,000, property taxes will be $297. Last year, the taxes would have been $282.
Reach Sandi Martin at (803) 648-1395, ext. 111, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reassessment notices were mailed to 58,000 property owners in September. The county is required to do a reassessment every five years, but delayed it by one year.
Tax bills go out in November, and the deadline to pay without a penalty is Jan. 15. The reassessment notices list what the county believes the fair market value of your property is. Some property owners have already appealed the notice, arguing that it's too high.
To appeal your property's appraisal, you must file a written objection within 90 days of receiving the notice. For more information, contact the Aiken County Assessor's office at (803) 642-1583 or (803) 642-1584.