2017 Fulton County Property Tax Assessment Increase Update

A few days ago I wrote this article about this Fulton County’s recent property tax assessments after receiving numerous calls and messages from neighbors with questions or complaints. As I mentioned in the previous article city officials like myself have absolutely no control over the assessments so our only options are to leverage whatever political influence we may have to encourage a reasonable resolution by those who do have control of the situation and adjust our local tax rate as we see fit based on the decision handed down.

With that in mind I have had several conversations with elected officials at the state and county level over the past few days and would like to provide an update. Every elected official I have spoken to is upset with the way the tax assessment process has been handled and I have been encouraged by the attention given to this urgent matter. One way or another local governments need to know our tax base as soon as possible. The city of Alpharetta will begin our current budget ends in less than three weeks and it is absolutely absurd that we still don’t know what our property tax base will be to plan for the next year.

Fulton County Vice Chairman Bob Ellis who represents Fulton’s 2nd District and lives in Milton has been at the forefront of trying to resolve this convoluted problem. Vice Chair Ellis held a public meeting last Thursday to hear from residents. This report from 11 Alive titled “Tempers Erupt in Meeting Halls over Fulton County Tax Bills” covered the meeting. A lot of upset taxpayers took advantage of the opportunity to voice their concerns and when I spoke to Bob on Friday he was sincerely glad to given them the opportunity. You may watch the full video of the town hall meeting here.

Vice Chair Ellis has also called upon state legislators to intervene if the problems cannot be successfully resolved at the local level. I am personally concerned about further state involvement in local governance because some of the existing assessment problems are unintended consequences of previous legislation. For example, state law currently requires governments to value residential properties between 90 and 110 percent of fair market value so Fulton County can be fined $1 million if this years’ assessments don’t reflect those values regardless of the consequences. But despite reservations about further state involvement I do appreciate Bob’s insistence that the situation must be remedied one way or another.

Fulton County Chairman John Eaves has also been vocal about the tax assessment problem. Last week Chairman Eaves joined Vice Chair Ellis in calling for the Board of Assessors to rescind the 2017 property tax assessments. Chairman Eaves has also been vocal in calling for a freeze on tax assessments until the issues can be resolved:

“To our homeowners, this is a financial emergency,” Eaves said. “A freeze would mean that most would pay the same in taxes, so long as city hall and school board millage rates were not increased in the past year.”

The Fulton County Board of Assessors was scheduled to vote on the requested tax freeze last week but postponed the vote until this Thursday. However the chief tax appraiser says he won’t recommend rescinding the assessments even at that time.

State Senator John Albers from Roswell who calls the assessment situation a “fiasco” is following the matter closely in case state intervention is required has also expressed concerns that the tax board meeting should be conducted in a more convenient forum for his constituents.

One way or the other it is imperative that the Tax Board resolve the situation immediately so that local governments can make informed decisions on tax millage rates and budgets for next year. This is unacceptable.

Before the tax board’s decision scheduled this week Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann who represents District 1 and lives in Johns Creek will also hold one more public meeting to discuss the matter this Wednesday night, June 14, at Johns Creek High School at 7:00 p.m. I encourage those of you who have questions or comments to please attend the meeting and be heard.

Hausmann meeting copy

 

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2017 Fulton County Property Tax Assessments

Yesterday I received my 2017 Fulton County Property Tax Assessment in the mail the same way thousands of my neighbors and constituents did. And within minutes of reading my own assessment I started receiving texts from several of those neighbors who were upset or had questions about their bills.

For the record my 2017 estimated property tax bill is more than $2100 higher than my 2016 tax bill. The new total is just over $7400 with roughly $1300 (18%) going to the City of Alpharetta, $2000 going to Fulton County (27%) and $4100 (55%) going to the Fulton County School system.

So I understand why many people were surprised and some were upset when they got their new tax assessments this week. I certainly didn’t like finding out I may have to pay almost $200 a month more in taxes this year either. However as a real estate agent with a healthy knowledge of property values in our area I am comfortable with the assessed value assigned to my home by the Fulton County tax assessor. That hasn’t always been the case though.

I bought my home in 2003. It was during a real estate downturn and my purchase price was substantially below the tax assessment for that year. I filed an appeal based on the lower actual sale price and as I recall it was eventually lowered to reflect the recent sale.

By 2008 my assessment had increased substantially to reflect the market and then the real estate market plummeted so my tax assessment was once again well above the true market value. I filed an unsuccessful appeal based on the prevailing market conditions but it took a couple of years before the assessment was eventually reduced to reflect the true market value.

Of course by the time my assessment was reduced the market had started recovering and I believe my tax assessment was substantially lower than market value for several years afterward. As you might expect I did not appeal for higher assessments when I felt the assessment was too low.

In my experience the assessments weren’t always what I considered to be the prevailing market value but the fluctuations seemed to average out about right over time. Generally that is the case because assessments tend to be a lagging indicator of property values as they fluctuate in both directions because it usually takes a few years for an assessor to adjust every parcel in a county with nearly a million residents.

So if you feel your property tax assessment is too high you may be right. It should eventually even out over time but if you are certain the assessor has made an error in your case there is an appeal process available to you.

I suggest that anyone concerned about the amount of their tax assessment start by checking one of the publicly available online tools to estimate their market value based on recent sales. Zillow has a reasonably good valuation tool at www.zillow.com/find-your-home/ but there are many others too. You can also ask a local real estate agent if you know one who might be willing to assist you.

No online estimate is a guarantee of a successful tax assessment appeal but it could help. On the other hand if you discover that other estimates are similar to the tax assessor’s valuation it may be hard to support your appeal. Either way you have 45 days from the date of your assessment to file an appeal.

The official date of my assessment was May 19, 2017. As a result my deadline to file a written appeal is July 3, 2017. Check your assessment notice to verify the date if you are considering an appeal.

You can find a printable version of the form for filing a tax assessment appeal is available at bit.ly/taxassessmentappealform. For additional information you can also check the state Department of Revenue website here: https://dor.georgia.gov/property-tax-real-and-personal-property

An alternative would be to hire a business that offers to handle your tax assessment appeal for a fee. I have never used such a service and have heard differing opinions on their value but it may be worth exploring for those of you who feel an inaccurate assessment could cost you a great deal of money.

Please understand that there is absolutely nothing I or anybody else with the City of Alpharetta can do about your assessment but if you have any questions about the process please let me know and I will do my best to get you a straight answer.

Another nail in the coffin of Georgia’s proposed transportation tax increase…

The Dekalb county commission just raised property taxes 26% to cover the county’s budget deficit. As a result Dekalb County residents will suffer a 50 million dollar tax increase even as their property values have declined. In exchange for that $50 million Dekalb residents won’t receive any additional services or benefits and are already being warned that the higher taxes still may not be enough.

As reported in the AJC:

Residents also will need more money. The new incorporated tax rate is 21.21 mills. The tax hike adds $93 a year to the tax bill on the average home, which dropped in value since last year.

But tax bills increase far more where home values have remained the same, with a $420 increase, for instance, on a home that remained at $300,000.

Those kinds of hikes will hit northern and central DeKalb particularly hard, because many home values there barely dropped. Commissioner Elaine Boyer, who represents northern DeKalb, called the tax hike a “slap in the face” for her constituents.

Boyer, who with May and Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton voted against the budget, said she also worried that without long-term forecasting, no one could say another tax hike won’t be needed next year.

Dekalb taxpayers are the only Georgia residents other than those in Fulton County that already have to pay a 1% sales tax to support MARTA. The new $50 million tax increase makes it less likely those same residents will choose to pay another 1% for transportation every time they spend their hard earned money.

The coffin nails are starting to add up at what be an alarming rate for those people determined to raise taxes in Georgia and proponents of the transportation tax increase know it. That is why they are moving the vote to a time when more tax and spend Democrats will likely be voting.

But even tax and spend Democrats have a limit to what they can tolerate. One must wonder if even Dekalb County Democrats may reach that limit before the transportation tax increase comes up for a vote.

So how’s that liberalism working out for you Charlotte?

A few months ago Kyle Wingfield of the AJC wrote a column about the unhealthy habit many Atlantans have developed of pointing to Charlotte, North Carolina as an example of what we need to do here. Below is a sample:

One thing I’ve noticed since moving back to Georgia is how many people here spend an inordinate amount of time fretting about North Carolina, and specifically Charlotte. They’re building high-speed rail in North Carolina. They’re building light rail in Charlotte. They’re spending more money on incentives to lure businesses. They just landed the Democratic National Convention in 2012.

(Notice how many of the supposed superiorities in our northern neighbor concern left-wing causes; you don’t hear much about North Carolina leading the way in cutting red tape or privatizing inefficient state-government functions.)

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A little background: Even with things going so swimmingly in North Carolina — at least according to some people here in Georgia — the state’s voters just saw fit to turn out the majority party (the Democrats) in both chambers of the legislature. It’s the first time the state’s senate has been out of Democratic control since 1870.

And now a few facts that may help explain the political upheaval:

  • During the 2009 through 2012 fiscal years, North Carolina has had bigger budget shortfalls than Georgia all four years in absolute terms, and in three of the four years as a percentage of the state’s budget. This year, their budget shortfall is projected at $3.8 billion to our $1.7 billion.
  • North Carolina’s unemployment rate, at 9.8 percent, is just about the same as our 10.2 percent.
  • North Carolina was cited by the Tax Foundation as having one of the nation’s 10 worst business tax climates; Georgia is in the middle of the pack at No. 25.

The reason I bring this up again is that this weekend I saw an interesting post about Charlotte’s Mecklenberg county on Twitter:

House hunting in SC 2day. Our property taxes going up $2000 next year. $2000 tax increases might be fine in NJ & CA. Bye, bye MeckCo & #CLT

So a metro Charlotte resident is going to move across state lines because their taxes just went up $2000 a year in a horrible economy? Huge tax increases in Charlotte? That couldn’t be right… could it? Well it is according to a blogpost titled Our 6.3% Property Tax Increase:

By the time you read this our top elected local Socialist – I’m writing of course about Jennifer Roberts –  will have graciously presented you with a 6.3% property tax increase. We now have a property tax rate of $.8166 per $100 of accessed property. A revenue neutral rate would have been $.7678 per $100. This 6.3% increase will soak you for another $50 MILLION. For some reason the percentage increase was never mentioned by that bastion of journalistic integrity – The Charlotte Observer – in their breathless advocacy for the tax increase prior to Tuesday’s budget vote by the BOCC.

If you live in Charlotte (85% of Mecklenburg County residents) you have already been the highest taxed individual in North Carolina for the past ten years.In the FY 2009 budget year (last available statistics), Charlotteans were clipped on average $2,360. The median average in North Carolina was $1,304. That’s a mere 44% difference if you’re mathematically inclined. Thanks to Roberts, you are padding your lead.

One of the leading bastions of liberalism in the Southeast is now raising taxes during an economic depression because they have to pay for the expensive policies that many influential Atlantans want to duplicate. Makes me glad I live in Alpharetta, Georgia. My property taxes will actually decrease this year.

So how’s that liberalism working out for you Charlotte?