The Liberty County Board of Assessors mailed annual property assessments notices on May 5. This informs property owners of the current year’s valuation of their property. Should you disagree with your value, you may appeal. An appeal must be submitted in writing to the assessor’s office on or before June 17. If you do not submit this information in writing by the deadline, you will have lost your right to appeal. Any questions should be directed to the Assessor’s Office at 876-2823.
Joe X, who didn’t want to use his real name, has watched property taxes on his Hinesville home climb from $920 in 1997 to $2,028 in 2008 and he wants to know what’s going on.
“I think it could almost be called criminal,” he said. “The entire country has seen a downturn in property value and a reduction in property tax income except Liberty [County] and Hinesville.”
The military retiree bought his home for $76,000 in 1996. Now it is worth $123,800, according to tax assessors.
“That is ridiculous,” Joe X said.
Anyone else questioning their property tax assessments has until June 17 to file an appeal, joining 117 others, as of Wednesday, who already filed with the assessor’s board.
But assessed property values aren’t spontaneously jacked up, according to Deputy Chief Appraiser C.W. Patterson.
“We’re not the boogie man,” Patterson said. “We don’t tax anything. All we do is follow the law.”
Appraisers are required by law to keep assessment within 10 percent of the fair market value and Patterson said they really try to keep it within five percent.
Assessments are adjusted to reflect the market. And the local housing market does not compare to the national downward trend.
“This whole thing is about equality,” Patterson said.
The assessed value of homes and the millage rates determine tax bills.
Patterson said the millage comes from dividing the budgets into the digest of the different tax entities, such as the county, city, Hospital Authority and Industrial Authority.
However, the digest is not arbitrary. It is all taxable properties’ assessed values combined.
“If there’s real growth, then the value of the digest will increase, which means more property tax revenue,” said Kim McGlothlin, the county’s chief financial officer.
Even if the millage stays the same year to year, property owners can get higher bills because of increases in budgets or assessments.
But the budgets increase as needs increase and residents should remember taxes make public services such as EMS and mosquito control possible, according to State Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway.
“You have to pay for the service. It ain’t free,” Williams said.
In this winter’s General Assembly, lawmakers froze assessments for the next three years and Gov. Sonny Perdue signed the bill into law earlier this month.
“I thought there was a lot of playing to the camera, too many people running for office,” said Williams, who voted against the bill.
Dissenters feared those with undervalued homes skate by while those with overvalued property are forced to fork over more money for the next three years.
“All the freeze does is what we’re already doing,” Williams added, citing the Kemp-Deloach-Williams Act. The local exemption keeps property tax from rising more than three percent in a given year.
However, he thinks KDW is not a one-size-fits-all and shouldn’t be assigned throughout the state.
“A knee-jerk reaction always backfires when unforeseen circumstances come into play,” he said.
Williams wasn’t sure where to point the finger for what the public says are disparities in the system.
“We just need to hold everyone’s feet to the fire,” Williams said. “I don’t want to see anybody misused.”
“We got to have tax relief, but it’s got to be equitable,” Williams said.