Originally created 09/24/01

Assessment errors trouble commissioner

SAVANNAH - Chatham County Commissioner Frank Murray says he thought the county's assessment loopholes problem had been fixed.

But now, he says, chief appraiser Gary Udinsky's failure to locate and place new homes on tax rolls is costing the county thousands. And during a year when the county had to cut nearly $13 million from the budget, every dollar counts.

"I'm not saying that this is the reason we are having our budget problems, but it certainly contributes," Mr. Murray said last week.

About four years ago, a real estate friend called Mr. Murray into his office to look at records.

The friend showed him that although new homes were being built, the properties they sat on often were going without a new assessment for years. Developers lived in those homes until they sold, paying lower taxes on vacant properties. This was happening all over the county, he said.

"They were not listed as completed residences, and yet people had been living there for years," Mr. Murray said.

He took the information to County Manager Russ Abolt and assumed the problem had been taken care of.

But recent revelations that appraisers failed to note a $900,000 home built in an upscale Savannah property tell him the problem still exists.

Mr. Murray recently ordered everyone involved in the incident to sit down and figure out where the problems exist. Earlier this month, Mr. Udinsky and Building Safety and Regulatory Services Director Gergori Anderson did just that. They concluded that the overlook was an isolated case.

That did not sit well with Mr. Murray.

"I don't believe we are holding people accountable in the areas where this is happening," Mr. Murray said. "This should have been corrected. It hasn't been corrected, and we need to do something to make sure it is corrected."

Mr. Murray said he will continue to press his concerns, despite the assertion of Mr. Udinsky and Mr. Anderson that their procedures are fine.


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