Homes' values may be argued

Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jennifer Norman-Dixon works at the Tax Assessors Office in Augusta, where assessors aren't expecting major declines.

It's a problem Richmond and Columbia county tax assessors don't expect to see: a glut of people contesting their property taxes because they feel the tax value is too high.

"Locally, it appears that we still have some areas where values are continuing to appreciate," said Calvin Hicks, the chief appraiser for the Augusta-Richmond County Board of Assessors.

The tax assessors aren't expecting a significant decline in home values this year.

Residents may contest if they think they're paying too much and propose a new taxable value for the property. It's a seldom-used alternative called the residential property tax return.

Until April 1, Richmond and Columbia county home owners can appeal the county's valuation by completing a form called the Real Property Return, or PT50R.

The forms are available on the counties' Web sites and at assessors' offices, Mr. Hicks said.

"We haven't had a lot of people. Invariably, very few people file returns on real property," he said.

Out of 80,000 parcels, only 332 property tax returns were filed in 2008, Mr. Hicks said.

Though residents can file each year, it doesn't mean the Board of Assessors will accept their recommended value. Home owners are "required to file if they have made changes to the property," Mr. Hicks said.

Aiken County declined to comment because it is trying to hire a new tax assessor, according to assessors office workers.

In Columbia County, there could be an increase in filings because of the economy, said Debbie Robertson, the chief appraiser for the Tax Assessors Office.

Foreclosures, business closings, unemployment and tight financial situations are all reasons taxpayers might file a property tax return, she said.

"In the past, the property tax returns are received for mainly commercial properties, and we normally get in less than 20 per year," Ms. Robertson said.

It's too early to determine whether property values have risen or fallen in Richmond County, Mr. Hicks said.

Ms. Robertson said appraisers in Columbia County are conducting fieldwork to determine how home values are doing.

The office must also complete data entry and sales analysis, which she expects will be finished by the first or second week in May.

"I expect that some areas may see decreased values, but not all areas," she said.

Reach LaTina Emerson at (706) 823-3227 or latina.emerson@augustachronicle.com.

WANT TO CONTEST?

RICHMOND COUNTY: Visit the Board of Assessors at 530 Greene St., Room 102, or visit www.augustaga.gov to obtain the Real Property Return form. The signed form can also be mailed to the tax assessors' office.

COLUMBIA COUNTY: Visit the Tax Assessors Office at 630 Ronald Reagan Drive, Building C, first floor in Evans, or print the forms from the county's Web site at www.columbiacountyga.gov. The return should be signed and mailed to the Columbia County Board of Tax Assessors, P.O. Box 498, Evans, GA 30809 or hand-delivered to the office. Home owners can attach any additional documentation for the board's review.

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