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Residents question property assessments during meeting
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FLEMINGTON — Several Liberty County residents whose property values have skyrocketed over the last year wondered why that’s happening — especially since they have filed for the Kemp-Deloach- Williams Act.

State Rep. Al Williams (D-Midway), one of the co-authors of the Kemp-Deloach-Williams Act, and Liberty County Tax Commissioner Virgil Jones, along with representatives of the assessors office met with more than 50 residents Saturday morning at the Liberty County Performing Arts Center.

“When they rise like this,” Williams said of the assessments, “something is wrong.”

John McIver, a former Riceboro mayor and chairman of the Liberty County board of commissioners, said his property values have gone up by more than $70,000 in two years.

“What’s going on?” he asked. “I can’t understand it. There is no way that should be.”

The Kemp-Deloach- Williams exemption begins with a base year of assessment and assessed values are to rise no more than the consumer price index (CPI) or 3%, which ever is lesser. Its purpose, Rep. Williams said, is to limit the taxable value of a property.

“It was designed to benefit your appreciation but not to tax you out of Liberty County,” he said.

The exemptions do not cap millage rates, Williams said, but it does cap assessed value.

Jones pointed out his office doesn’t set the values for property; its function is to collect the taxes derived from property, after millage rates are set, and disburse those proceeds to the local entities.

“So many people don’t know what the difference between the tax assessors’ office and the tax commissioners’ office,” Williams said.

The exemptions do not cap millage rates, Williams said, but it does cap assessed value.

For a resident who lives in the unincorporated portion of the county, their tax bill will reflect the millages set by the county commissioners, the school system and the hospital authority. The Liberty County Development Authority millage rate is set at 2 mills every year.

The city of Hinesville was not included in the original legislation. “I have not been able to remember why the city

was not in that,” Williams said. Jones said there is a discrepancy on how the assessors office and the commissioners’ office see the KDW exemption values.

“At the time, values were going way up,” Jones said of the KDW Act. “We were seeing these huge increases in property taxes. Somewhere, I don’t think the system is calculating it right.”

The Kemp-Deloach- Williams exemption has its limitations. It is restricted to the five acres around a homestead on a tract and it can be sought only by Liberty County property owners for their primary residence. For instance, someone who lives in another county and owns land in Liberty County cannot seek using the Kemp-Deloach-Williams exemption. The exemption remains in place, Williams said, until the land is sold, given away or a major addition is made to it.

Williams also noted the rising housing prices in the county as homes are going for more and more.

“We don’t have a shortage of demand in Liberty County,” he said. “We do have a shortage of affordable housing in Liberty County.”

Williams also said he was shocked by the number of people who have not signed up for the Kemp-Deloach-Williams exemption.

“Let’s get this information out to the people,” he said. “If you don’t have it, get it as soon as you can.”

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