Tax digest growth looks small

Thursday, May 7, 2009 1:03 PM
Last updated 1:38 PM
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The Richmond County Tax Assessor’s office hasn’t finished tallying the 2009 digest, but it appears the growth won’t be what it was in past years, Chief Appraiser Calvin Hicks said.

Mr. Hicks said his office has finished the real property, or real estate, portion, and almost twice as many parcels decreased in value as increased. Still, there’s an overall net gain in taxable (40 percent) value of $24 million.

“We will have very little growth from real property this year,” Mr. Hicks said.

The Board of Assessors will mail 26,242 notices to property owners Friday. Unlike in past years, both owners with values increasing and those with values decreasing will receive letters. Of them, 16,860 will say values have dropped; 8,551 will say values have gone up; and 831 are for new parcels.

Mr. Hicks said the new parcels account for a total value of $54.92 million. Increases totaled $244.95 million and decreases were $239.82 million.

“The growth that we have is being offset by the reductions, or the value losses,” he said.

While the decreases include houses destroyed by fire or deemed uninhabitable, most of them – 11,000 to 12,000 – had to do with market values dropping, Mr. Hicks said. New legislation recently signed by Gov. Sonny Perdue allows assessors to take foreclosures, bank sales and re-sales by lending institutions into account. In previous years, those were considered sales under duress and weren’t factored when assigning values to comparable properties.

Another bill signed by the governor puts a moratorium on real estate value increases, but only in counties that don’t have millage rate limitations. Richmond County established a limitation in 1980, so the new law doesn’t apply, Mr. Hicks said.

The assessor’s office hasn’t yet tallied personal property, such as motor vehicles, mobile homes, aircraft, timber and heavy equipment. Last year, the personal property digest decreased by 0.19 percent. The total digest grew 4 percent from 2007 to 2008, from $4.86 billion to $5.05 billion

Mr. Hicks said he’ll have 2009’s total figure later this month or in early June.

Augusta City Administrator Fred Russell said that even if the increase is minimal he doubts it will lead to a tax rate increase on the city government side. Failure of the special-purpose sales tax package at the polls in June would pose a greater threat, he said.

“I think if there’s any growth at all, I’ll be a happy camper,” Mr. Russell said. “I cannot see this commission, even this early, allowing me to increase the millage.”

And if the rise in the digest doesn’t keep up with the rising cost of government services, “I think we’ll continue to tighten our belts,” he said.


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