Muscogee County residents with a homestead exemption aren’t immune from tax increases.
John Williams, deputy chief assessor for the Muscogee County Board of Assessors, said the homestead exemption only covers a person’s home and two acres. Taxes on acreage beyond that can fluctuate.
That’s part of the reason why some residents in northern parts of the county have received an exorbitant increase in their property tax estimates this year as the result of a countywide reassessment, Williams said. Many of them live in outlying areas like Upatoi with larger lots.
Williams said there are about 1,580 properties in Muscogee County that have both a homestead and a lot over two acres.
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On Tuesday, some of those residents showed up at a Columbus Council meeting, where some councilors expressed outrage over the drastic increases in property tax assessments. In some cases, the increase is as high as 1,000 percent.
Jeanette Brown, a Upatoi resident, said her property has been in her family since 1968. She said the house was valued at $35,000 prior to the recent assessment, and no improvements were made. Now it’s valued at $107,000. Her assessment jumped from about $400 to $1,807.
“Ain’t nobody gonna give me $10,000 for that house,” she said. “... Everybody out there that has acreage is complaining. It went up three or four times the amount.”
Williams said the countywide reassessment was part of a Web-based software upgrade. He said 70,000 parcels were reassessed, and tax notices were mailed to property owners on June 30.
He said there’s a lot of confusion in the community about the homestead exemption and how it works. Some people think the exemption freezes their taxes, but that’s a misconception. He said it freezes the home value, which is then taxed based on the millage rate.
There’s also a misconception about the notice that people recently received in the mail, Williams explained. He said it’s not a bill, but a notice of assessed property value, as well as an estimate of taxes. It’s the Tax Commissioner, and not the Tax Assessor, who bills property owners based on the millage rate. He said the Tax Commission is scheduled to mail out the actual bills on Oct. 1.
Citizens can file an appeal their assessments at the Tax Assessor’s Office located in the Citizens Service Center or at http://www.columbusga.org/taxassessors/. Once appeals are received, appraisers will take a second look at the property to determine if the valuation should be changed. If they decide otherwise, the property owner can appeal to the Board of Equalization. Appealing directly to Superior Court and other options are available at an additional cost.