The phones aren’t ringing as much in the Columbia County Tax Assessors Office.
One year after the state lifted a three-year moratorium on tax re-evaluations, resulting in a sudden jump in many property values, this year’s new assessments are more modest, said Chief Assessor Debbie Robertson.
More than 57,000 notices on the more than $10 billion in real and personal property started landing in mailboxes this week.
Read them, Robertson said.
“Be sure and open your notice,” she said. “A lot of people, when it says ‘this is not a tax bill,’ don’t open it until the appeal date is over.”
Appeals must be made in writing within 45 days of the date of the notice. Far fewer than last year’s 1,818 appeals are expected this year, Robertson said.
“It’s a lot calmer,” she said. “We have steady calls, especially the first week, but not too bad this year. This year there were a lot of decreases, so some of the sticker shock may have gone away.”
Tax officials also are reconciling the new title ad valorem tax implemented this year to phase out the “birthday tax” charged to motorists.
Even state officials are somewhat confused with how the money is divvied up, said Columbia County Tax Commissioner Kay Allen.
Instead of the tax being collected at the point of car sales and sent to Atlanta, with the local share remitted to counties, it’s now collected along with tag fees at local tax offices, with just the state portion sent to Atlanta.
A portion of the local funds replaces what the birthday tax would have collected, and figuring that out is complicated, Allen said.
“My folks keeping saying this isn’t rocket science, but it is rocket science,” she said.
While many area homeowners are reporting via social media small reductions in their home’s value in this year’s assessments, homeowners might also want to check the assessed value on watercraft – which received additional scrutiny this year.
“We just hadn’t looked at watercraft closely in a while,” Robertson said. “We kind of have to pick and choose each year what to concentrate on, and that was one of the things this year that we looked at.”
It’s purely a coincidence, she said, that the focus on boats comes as Thurmond Lake returns to full pool.