Homes' values may be argued

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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.

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

"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


RICHMOND COUNTY: Visit the Board of Assessors at 530 Greene St., Room 102, or visit 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 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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junket83 01/11/09 - 09:51 am
The entire property tax

The entire property tax assessment system should be changed to a flat value based on the size of the lot. The actual size of the building is irrelevant, but it creates an entire industry that only adds to the cost and frustrates property owners. It is the same for a vehicle. Stop assessing based on value and create the tax based on size. The govt can still get additional taxes based on the size of a home through consumption taxes on energy, water, etc. useage. If they really wanted to get creative they could start raising the tax on all dilapidated/poorly maintained structures. The assessors could spend their time evaluating the cost to the community of not maintaining the dwelling/property and the taxes would be increased accordingly to help alleveate the problem.

justus4 01/11/09 - 11:48 am
House & property assessment

House & property assessment is based on racial factors that everone knows, but no one speaks. The assessment value of a individual's home depends on where it's located and the minority is always at the botom. Why? When a minority family moves into a particular neighborhood, many folks believe that their property value will decrease...and it probably will. Whites will deny any bias when it come to housing, but look at the reality around you. Most of America's communities are separated according to race, especially in the South. Columbia County v. Richmond County, and most have moved based on "white flight" and closet racism. "We've" long known the truth. It's time that the assessor office apply truth to property values.

UncleBill 01/11/09 - 12:13 pm
Under the current system, my

Under the current system, my tax goes up every year but the county commissioners say, "we didn't raise your taxes". So the value of my property went up? Any item is only worth what someone will pay for it, and I don't' make now twice what I did when I bought the property. The system allows the tax to go up and the commissioners don't have to take responsibility.

UncleBill 01/11/09 - 12:16 pm
What we need is legislation

What we need is legislation roughly equivalent to what was done with Proposition 13 in California some years ago. Tax property based on the purchase price unless there is an actual significant improvement that increases the value of the property. Then the commissioners have to assess taxes each year based on the needs of the county budget, and be accountable to the people for their actions in determining tax rates. This would require a change in state law.

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