The Liberty County Commission gave formal approval Thursday to the previously announced tax millage rates and voted to ask for a court order allowing them to collect taxes based on a temporary version of the county tax digest.
The millage rate for unincorporated Liberty County and the six municipalities except Hinesville was set at 13.45 mills. The county tax rate for property inside Hinesville is 12.63. Other rates set Thursday were 15.789 for schools, 3.23 for the hospital and 2 mills for the development authority.
Different county tax rates are set for Hinesville and the remainder of the county so that residents of Hinesville who pay both city and county property taxes are not taxed twice for the same service.
Hinesville property owners pay the city for fire protection, building inspections, law enforcement and other shared services, and their county tax bills are rolled back for a corresponding amount.
After the commission’s approval Thursday evening, County Attorney Kelly Davis filed the petition in Liberty County Superior Court Friday morning. State law requires public notice of the requested temporary tax collection arrangement and a 10-day waiting period; a hearing is expected to be held before Judge Jay Stewart Thursday, Dec. 29.
If the petition is granted Liberty County property owners will be able to begin paying property taxes and obtaining auto tags and decals and mobile home decals.
Permission to collect taxes based on a temporary digest is needed because appeals from the owner of private structures on Fort Stewart total more than five percent of the total digest. When more than five percent of the digest’s value is appealed the state revenue commissioner is unable to approve the county’s digest.
The value of the digest, all the taxable property in Liberty County, is $1,548,095,448. The assessed value of the property of the Fort Stewart leaseholder, Stewart Hunter Housing LLC , is $86,057,348.
According to the county’s petition, Stewart Hunter Housing made its appeal in August.
County Commissioner Connie Thrift said Thursday, "I wish the assessors’ office had let us know about this appeal."
The temporary digest and millage rates adopted Thursday are calculated without the Fort Stewart property so taxpayers should not face any increase in their bills when the digest is reconciled after the Fort Stewart appeals are settled.
Commission Chairman Donald Lovette said, "I can’t say we’re optimistic about the appeals," saying that if the property remained on the digest it would be a windfall for the county.
Davis explained that when the property on the Fort Stewart reservation was privatized 12 years ago the lease agreements were structured to be exempt from local taxes and the Georgia attorney general provided a ruling supporting the exemption.