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Property tax bills in the mail
Virgil Jones1
Tax Commissioner Virgil Jones - photo by Courier file photo

What is a mill

The millage rate (also known as the tax rate) is a figure applied to the value of your property to calculate your property tax liability. One "mill" is one dollar of tax on every thousand dollars of taxable value. Your tax dollars are used to fund the cost of your local government each year.

Approximately 25,000 property tax bills have started making their way through the mail, and home owners have until Feb. 10 to pay.
But Liberty County Tax Commissioner Virgil Jones said it would be hard to tell if taxpayers will see an increase or decrease from last year, because taxes reflect the property’s assessed value.
“Even though the overall millage came down, if a customer had an increase in property (assessed) value, then they may see an increase in their bill,” Jones said. “I think a lot of the changes came in 2006 because the tax assessor increased value on property, but I don’t think they’ll see that jump from 2007 to 2008.”
C.W. Patterson, deputy chief appraiser, agreed.
“Personally, I don’t perceive a drastic increase, if any,” he said.
Patterson explained the assessed value is 40 percent of fair market value, and property taxes are determined by multiplying the assessed value by the millage rate.
The millage rate is determined by dividing the budget by the digest, a compilation of all the properties in the county.  The digest and the budget both fluctuate, however, so the millage is never going to be exactly the same.
“You cannot have a constant as the function of two variables,” Patterson said.
And there shouldn’t be any surprises on tax bills.
Property owners got a glimpse of what their taxes were going to look like in May, when assessment notices were sent out, according to Patterson. They were given 45 days to appeal.
“By not appealing, they in effect, agreed to the value of the notice,” Patterson said. “They’re upset about the taxes, but they weren’t apparently upset about the values.”

State regulation requires the assessment ratio (assessed values to the market) to be within 10 percent of fair market value.
“We’re going to keep up with market (value),” Patterson said. “Some years we don’t change anything because it’s within our legal ratios, and other years we have to basically modify values to meet market.”
He advises those who feel their property was overvalued or undervalued to make a tax return on their property between Jan. 1 and March 31.
“Once we set that digest and the tax commissioner mails out those bills, then they’ve basically been sent an assessment … meaning they agree to that value, and it’s pretty well locked in,” Patterson said.
Jones said his office gives owners 60 days to pay, as required by law, but most people try to pay by the end of the year, in time to be included in their 2008 income taxes.
“In that 60 days, we can typically collect approximately 92 percent of what we bill,” Jones said.
Taxes are charged on commercial, agricultural residential and industrial properties.
“The goal of the assessment is to make sure that everything in the county is assessed correctly and ensure equality, so everyone is paying his fair share,” Patterson said.
Jones said notices are only sent to the taxpayer, unless specifically requested by mortgage companies.
“Actually, overall, everything is about the same,” Jones said. “We did add some additional information to help people to understand.”
The added feature details the Kemp-Deloach-Williams Tax Relief Act for eligible customers.
Other tax breaks include cuts for those over 62 and the Homestead Exemption, which qualifies those who own and live in their home. 


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