Taxpayers disputing Augusta-Richmond County’s latest assessment of their property values have less than a month to file an appeal.
Since 2011 under Georgia law, the office of Chief Appraiser Alveno Ross has been required to notify every owner of real estate in the county about their current property assessment and estimated tax liability - whether the value has changed since last year or not.
That means some 77,685 notices were mailed to property owners May 9, Ross said. The owners of 213 parcels had filed appeals Wednesday, and owners have 45 days – through June 23 – to challenge the assessment.
The estimated bill is based on current tax rates that could change when the commission sets the millage rate later this summer. The rate will be applied against the assessor values in 2014 tax bills to raise the revenue used to fund the local government.
One of the more striking items for many on the latest assessments isn’t an item taxpayers can challenge, however. Included on some 11,800 assessment notices this year was a new $155.25 solid waste collection fee for “unoccupied locations.”
Approved last year by the Augusta Commission as part of the city’s new solid waste contract, the fee gets a mention in a separate enclosure from Augusta Environmental Services included with the tax notice.
“Because Augusta has fees associated with its tax bill, and the statute requires us to give an estimate of your tax bill, we include the fees for street light charges and waste management charges in our estimate,” Ross said.
Ross said no area of the county was targeted this year for reassessment, but that assessors continue to find new or improved properties to tax as they continue review of a countywide set of aerial images.
“Under the pictometry project, we’ve been discovering improvements on parcels,” he said. They’re about 40 percent through the review of images, he said.
The pictometry project picks up those improvements – swimming pools, garages – homeowners are loathe to report to the assessor’s office.
“They don’t run down here and tell me, ‘the basement is now finished,’” Ross said with a chuckle.
If property owners choose to appeal the valuation, they can challenge it based on value, uniformity or taxability.
“We will assist you directly, here on site,” Ross said of the appraiser’s office in Augusta Municipal Building at 530 Greene St.
Owners can also download a form accessible via www.augustaga.gov or the Georgia Department of Revenue Web site, fill it out and mail it in.
The office also refers owners to www.qpublic.net/ga/richmond to examine data on every parcel in Augusta, including their own, Ross said.
The site provides “generally enough information to make the decision on whether they think the value is proper,” he said.
If they move forward, the appeal is examined by the assessor’s office and sent to the Board of Equalization, which can affirm or reject the staff recommendation.
Owners may also select the option of arbitration, but the decision is final and the loser must pay arbitration costs. Owners of non-homesteaded properties valued at more than $1 million may seek a hearing officer to review the assessment.
But too often, owners file an appeal, then fail to attend their Board of Equalization hearing, Ross said.
“The law grants them all the rights and protections of the appeal, but it doesn’t require them to do anything,” he said.
The next step is taking the appeal to Richmond County Superior Court, for which the assessor’s office recommends having an attorney.