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Is tax digest wrong?
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An anticipated public outcry has mustered in Liberty County following the arrival of this year’s property tax assessments.
The chairman of the Board of Assessors, Russell Wells, said about 25 appeals had already been filed since the assessments were mailed out last week.
Chuck Patterson, who is the deputy chief appraiser for Liberty County, predicted this backlash before the assessments were sent out.
“In some places in the county, there were increases to people’s property, and I’m sure we’ll see a bundle of appeals when people see their new property taxes,” he said.
To explain some of these tax shifts, he provided an explanation of what is deemed a “neighborhood factor,” which is sometimes applied in tax assessment calculations to hedge land-value changes.
“A neighborhood factor is to account for the increase or decrease in the market as to the ambiance of the neighborhood when it can’t be taken into account by land value or whatever,” he said.
In some places, the neighborhood factor was increased by as much as 10 to 25 percent to balance the taxed property in a given area, and in some places, such as Cherokee Village, the neighborhood factor decreased, he said.
If the assessors office continues to receive these property tax appeals though, the state will not approve the tax digest until most are resolved, Wells said.
The assessors office also has other problems on their hands as the Department of Revenue has instructed them (along with assessors in other counties) to update their records to account for all the outdated information concerning exempt properties in the county, chief appraiser Glenda Roberts said.
For instance, tax records reveal there is tens of millions in exempt properties in the county, and there are apparent discrepancies, including 10 healthcare facilities in the county that are exempt.
“We are in the process now of reviewing the exempt properties,” Roberts said. “The classification of the exempt properties — there’s no taxes collected on them — and honestly, there are some properties that are coded incorrectly that are sitting out there which need to be changed.”
Jimmy Smith, former chairman of the Liberty County Commission, said he firmly believes the taxing system in the area is inaccurate.
“The property in this county was taxed incorrectly before 2003, and since the re-evaluation it’s just as much of a mess as ever. The firm that the commission paid $500,000 to did not meet their contractual obligations, and their errors have not been fixed since, considering our tax digest is still incomplete and out of date,” he said.

Freelance writer Joe Parker Jr. contributed to this story.
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