Smile - you're on not-so-candid camera. Or at least your house is.
There's a little note on the back page of the county's latest water-bill newsletter insert, "Endless Opportunities," telling us that workers from the county tax assessor's office are snapping photos of local properties.
The aim, it says, is "to help ensure equity in assessing property."
Hallelujah. I'm in favor of just about anything that helps the assessors get the value of property correct.
But I had a recent conversation with staffers of the assessors office that, while very pleasant, also left me puzzled.
See, I always thought "fair market value" had something to do with the cost, or "value," of a piece of property when it is sold in the "fair market."
Hah. Boy, was I wrong.
This educational experience came in the course of checking on some property up for rezoning in the Furys Ferry Road area. Across the street, we noticed a big vacant corner lot with an assessed value of $109,000.
So what, right? Except that the lot sold four years ago for $315,000.
The person who bought the 2.41 acres in 2004 obviously thought it was worth $315,000. Presumably, no one held a gun to his head and made him buy it for that price.
So why does the county decide it's worth only a third as much?
Well, it has power lines crossing it, the assessors explained. Fine - except that the power lines were there when the owner bought it. He obviously thought it was worth $315,000, power lines and all.
Perhaps suffering from buyer's remorse, the owner appealed the tax value shortly after his purchase. The power lines and highway setbacks would make it difficult to develop, he said, leaving only a small portion of the property usable.
So even though he had just expressed his belief that the property was worth $315,000 - in fact, he felt so strongly about it that he actually paid $315,000 for the property - the board of assessors decided the land was worth just $109,000.
But not to worry: They'll catch up. During reassessments this year they raised it - to $113,000. At that rate, in about 50 years they'll get the property back to the value that the owner himself said the land is worth. You know, in the "fair market," where such "values" are supposed to be determined.
Ah, well. Maybe they'll straighten it all out once they take a picture of it.
Speaking of pictures, Deborah McCord and Dick Manion likely will have plenty of them when they return from the Twin Cities this weekend.
The current and former chairmen of the Columbia County Republican Party traveled to Minneapolis-St. Paul last week to take part in the Republican National Convention. McCord served as a delegate from Georgia's 10th District, while Manion was an alternate.
Speaking by phone from Minnesota last week, Manion said the atmosphere on the convention floor was "electric," especially with the much-anticipated speech of vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin Wednesday evening.
"The way this thing played out was dynamite," Manion said, noting that even some of the members of the national media were discreetly snapping photos of Palin with their personal cameras while the Alaska governor and former beauty queen spoke.
I would expect some of the girl-power atmosphere to carry over this Thursday, when the Greater Columbia County Republican Women meet at 6 p.m. at the Jones Creek Clubhouse.
The speaker for the evening is Sue Everhart, the chairwoman of Georgia's Republican Party.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
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