Originally created 05/20/05

Property owners to get notices



The Richmond County Board of Tax Assessors approved assessment-change notices Thursday on 33,631 parcels of property whose values have increased this year.

The total increase, based on a recent reassessment of all real estate in Richmond County, is $1.12 billion, or an average 27 percent.

Notices are scheduled to be mailed to property owners May 27, and property owners will have 45 days to file an appeal in the assessors office.

The assessors office will mail notices on June 21 for properties whose values have decreased or remained the same. The county has roughly 77,000 parcels of real estate.

Assessors Board Chairman Charles Smith emphasized that an increase in property value does not automatically translate into a tax increase.

A state law passed during the tenure of Gov. Roy Barnes prevents governments from receiving a windfall from inflationary increases in county values. The law requires that millage rates be rolled back so that taxes remain at the previous year's level unless commissioners announce a millage increase and hold three public hearings.

"We're looking at the fair market value," Mr. Smith said. "And we're doing so under the procedures set by the Department of Revenue and the laws of the state of Georgia, and we're doing mass appraisal."

The revaluation began this spring after Chief Appraiser Sonny Reece was forced to resign because of many complaints about his management style and a declining tax digest that created a budget crisis in city government.

The assessors staff launched the revaluation after he left.

Mr. Smith said that if people have questions about the value, equity or uniformity of their reassessments, they can begin appealing Friday.

"In most cases, the question is answered immediately with a meeting in the assessors office," he said. "If there are significant changes and differences of opinion, the board of assessors will consider the appeal, and in some cases it will be settled there. If not, it goes to the Board of Equalization."

Assessors Board Vice Chairman Bill Lee also encouraged property owners to appeal values they think are incorrect. If the new value is based on a faulty calculation, such as incorrect square footage, the error will be corrected, he said.

"On a positive note, for about half the people in the county, their property values have increased," Mr. Lee said. "Therefore, when they ultimately sell it, they'll have a gain."

The value on Mr. Lee's house on Canterbury Drive in west Augusta increased 29 percent, from $136,000 to $176,000, he said.

"The market has gone up in our area," he said.

Most west Augusta property values increased between 20 percent and 30 percent in the reassessment, Mr. Lee said.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

Value change

Richmond County's new assessment change list of parcels with fair market value increases:

Number: 33,631

Previous Value: $4,159,865,546

Current Value: $5,282,731,631

Difference: $1,122,866,085

Average Change: 27 percent

IMPORTANT DATES

May 27: Value change notices will be mailed

June 21: Value change notices for decreases and those that remained the same will be mailed (deadline for appeals for these is Aug. 5)

July 11: Last day for filing appeals

July 14: Preliminary digest will be delivered to the Augusta Commission and Richmond County Board of Education

July 19: Commission establishes 2005 millage rate

July 21-Aug. 4: Two-week advertising of five-year history and proposed millage rates and, if necessary, notification of three public hearings

Aug. 8: Commission and board of education formally set levy

Aug. 12: Digest goes to the Georgia Department of Revenue