Liberty County won’t be getting the taxes that County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette had said would be a windfall.
The board of assessors agreed unanimously at their Aug. 15 meeting that the $244 million in leased buildings on Fort Stewart are not taxable, at least for now.
After jurisdictional changes in the civilian-military relationship and the willingness of Fort Stewart’s public-private housing partner, Balfour Beatty, to offer to lease or rent to non-soldiers, the board of assessors decided the housing units belonged on the county tax digest. Balfour Beatty, which owns the leaseholds as Stewart Hunter Housing LLC, appealed the levy. The 2016 value of $244 million is for buildings only; the ground upon which they stand is federal property and tax exempt.
A 2015 agreement between the Army and the state said, ". . . the state of Georgia expressly retains civil and criminal jurisdiction over persons and citizens, and jurisdiction over the taxation of private property..."
A consent order drafted by County Attorney Kelly Davis after a Aug. 6 resolution by the county commission gives up the claim that Balfour Beatty leaseholds are private property, "until such time as the Liberty County Board of Assessors shall determine otherwise,"
The Superior Court order specifies that Balfour Beatty will provide annual reports to the tax assessors showing the total number of tenants, including civilians, to whom it leases, as well as deeds, leases, operating agreements, management agreements, etc. Under the order, Balfour Beatty will cooperate with the tax assessors in any future evaluation or review of its tax exempt status.
The size of the assessment appealed — about six percent of the total value of the property in the county — meant that the state revenue department would not approve the digest. Liberty County earlier obtained court approval of a temporary digest; the consent order clears the way for the regular digest and normal tax bills.