A year after sudden hikes in property values brought on by the end of a state moratorium on tax re-evaluations, this year’s new assessments of Columbia County property generally are more modest.
More than 57,000 notices on more than $10 billion in real and personal property were mailed last week, said Chief Assessor Debbie Robertson.
“My assessment went down $4,000 this year, and I am quite surprised seeing how it went up $10,000 the year before,” said Grovetown resident Stephanie Borchik.
All residents should immediately check their assessment notices for accuracy, Robertson said.
“A lot of people, when it says ‘this is not a tax bill,’ don’t open it until the appeal date is over,” she said.
Opening the assessments and checking the valuation could avoid a problem like last year when a Grovetown couple failed to notice until August that, because of a typing error, their $250,000 home was assessed at $25 million. County officials reversed the error, but by then all local governments were forced to redo their budgets to make up for the sudden shortfall in expected tax receipts.
Homeowners who disagree with their property assessment must file an appeal in writing within 45 days of the date of the notice. Because so many assessments were lower this year, far fewer than 2012’s 1,818 appeals are expected, Robertson said.
“We hope it’s just going to be just a normal appeal year like the old days,” Robertson said. “2012 just about did us in. We need a little bit of a respite from that.”
The majority of those appeals were successful, she added.
Tax officials also are reconciling the new title ad valorem tax implemented this year to phase out the “birthday tax” charged to motorists.
But even state officials are somewhat confused with how the money is divvied up, said Columbia County Tax Commissioner Kay Allen.
Instead of the tax being collected at the point of car sales and sent to Atlanta, with the local share remitted to counties, it’s now collected along with tag fees at local tax offices, with just the state portion sent to Atlanta.
A portion of the local funds replaces what the birthday tax would have collected, and figuring that out is complicated, Allen said.
“My folks keep saying this isn’t rocket science, but it is rocket science,” she said.