By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
State budget cut pinching county too
John McIver2
Commission Chairman John McIver - photo by Courier file photo
Assessor rules

A separate law now also requires assessors to identify themselves when going on properties, something Liberty County assessors already do.
Appraisals on typical residential properties take 20 minutes tops and don’t require them to go in the homes.
Assessors have 24,000 pieces of property to appraise and there is no way times and dates can be arranged individually.
Georgia tightened the belt on budgets this year and all areas, even Liberty County, will feel a pinch eventually.
Property owners previously may have cheered the three-year freeze on assessment increases, but those lost dollars mean a leaner county budget and higher tax bills to make up the difference.
At $25.4 million, this year’s budget is about $1 million less than last year’s and Liberty County Commission Chairman John McIver said the board has to be prudent.
“We’re going to have to hold the line this year until we see this economy turn around,” He said. “I think we have a very conservative budget and we’re doing the best we can to be a good steward where we can.”
When creating the budget, commissioners considered the upcoming loss in property values and a $675,000 annual loss from the Homeowners Tax Relief Grant. The state used to reimburse governments for passing on a $200-$300 tax break to property owners, but Gov. Sonny Perdue said the state’s budget can no longer handle the grant.
The new budget leaves no room for new expenditures, capital projects or employees — anything that was not mandated.
“We took the position if we don’t have the revenue, we’re not even going to address the request,” McIver said of the finance committee’s stance. The panel is made up of McIver, County Administrator Joey Brown, Chief Financial Officer Kim McGlothlin and Commissioners Connie Thrift and Marion Stevens.
The five-member finance committee pours over the budget, line item by line item, for about two months before the budget hearing in front of the entire board.
“There really wasn’t anything that stood out to us,” McIver said. “We went in knowing there was going to be a lot of shortfall this year as far as revenue.”
Counties still are obligated to provide services, which leaves some local officials to wonder why state legislators would pass a law causing counties to suffer from not being able to collect all due taxes.
“From our opinion, this was done to address the decline in the market nationally,” said Glenda Roberts, Liberty County’s chief tax appraiser. “However, Liberty County has not experienced the same decline in its market as has been seen on a national scale.”
Because budget restructuring is a statewide response to regional problems, only some Georgia areas will benefit — likely at the expense of others, said deputy chief appraiser C.W. Patterson.
Part of the problem is in Atlanta and the surrounding areas, where Patterson said a 30 percent shortfall swept the real estate market in metro-Atlanta counties.
“In all actuality, the appraisers’ office should have reappraised the property and lowered the value on it,” Patterson said. “They were trying to protect the taxing digest of the time so they froze it, which is immensely unfair to the taxpayer.”
“We were maintaining and keeping up with fair market value … so property owners didn’t get a large jump at any given time,” Roberts added.
However, property owners will see a hike this time.
“Unfortunately, a lot of times when people get their tax bills and their taxes go up, the first thing they say is county, county, county, county,” McGlothlin said at a recent commission meeting.
But the county has rolled back the millage rate for the last four years.
“So even though tax bills have gone up, it hasn’t been the county,” McGlothlin said.
Fortunately, McIver thinks the county has enough growth to offset the loss in reassessed growth.
“That law does not stop us from assessing property at their fair market value,” Roberts said of the statewide moratorium.
So those assessment notices will still come in the mail, but assessors will not be able to address inflationary increases to property values.
Annual notices will contain the 2008 assessment and the current year’s fair market assessment.
“It’s going to complicate it a little bit,” Roberts said.
The county’s budget last year was $26.3 million but only $22.8 million was actually spent.
Sign up for our e-newsletters