Freezing 2017 tax assessments at 2016 values is a bad idea and probably out of the question, a member of the Muscogee County Tax Assessors Board said Wednesday.
Board Chairman Chester Randolph made the comments a day after Columbus Council passed a resolution calling for tax assessors to institute the freeze, shoving the board into the spotlight.
Randolph said the issue will be discussed at the board’s next meeting, which will be held at 9 a.m. Monday on the second floor of the City Services Center. Monday also is the deadline for property owners to appeal their tax assessments, which are currently being reviewed by tax assessors.
“Folks want to roll it back to 2016, and I’m not even sure that they understand what they’re asking,” Randolph said in an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer. “... If we roll it back to 2016 values, you’re talking about folks that have a value that they’re happy with that might go up and they’re gonna sue. You’re talking about starting another appeals process, which is 45 days plus 30. You’re talking about a two and a half to three month process.
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“And we’re already behind the eight ball trying to get taxes out and get taxes collected and get the values right,” he continued. “So you’re talking about getting taxes out in January or February, collecting them in March or April. Now, what will that mean for the city and the school system?”
Randolph said the board’s attorney, Randy Lomax, told board members that they have no legal authority to rollback the digest, despite a state representative’s statements to the contrary. Even if the board did have the authority, he would not be in favor of such action.
He said there’s a perception in the community that most of the 2017 assessments are erroneous and should be reduced, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. He said the recent assessments are the result of a much needed software upgrade.
“... Because you have a few areas where you may have some issues, folks think the whole system is messed up and that’s not the case,” he said. “This software is probably one of the best software packages anywhere. ... It’s what you call an enterprise software, and not only do we use the software, but the Tax Commissioner’s Office uses it, the GIS uses it, zoning uses it.”
When asked for his reaction to the significant increases in tax assessments across the county, Randolph said: “If you don’t have the manpower and resources to go out and do your job, you really don’t do it good and you need to do something to change that, and the software has allowed us to do that.”
But many Columbus property owners are hoping the board will accept council’s recommendation. Carolyn Earley, a local Realtor, sent out an email to fellow Realtors Tuesday asking them to make their voices heard.
“I am concerned that the Board of Tax (Assessors) will not approve this resolution,” she wrote. “... In order to support the City Council to get this done, I would like to ask each of you to not only call and/or e mail the Board of Tax Assessors but to ask that they honor the Council's resolution to roll back the taxes to the 2016 tax assessments. ... Also forward this e mail to anyone else that may be affected.”
Other members of the Board of Tax Assessors are Matthew Moorefield, Lawton Grantham Jr., Daniel Hill and Pat Bettis Hunter.
“The members of the Muscogee County Board of Tax Assessors are appointed by City Council for fixed terms as defined by State law,” according to information on the Muscogee County website. “The Board of Assessors operates independently as the agency charged with the responsibility of determining taxability and establishing the fair market value of all real and personal property for ad valorem taxation purposes. The Board is also responsible for notifying taxpayers when there are changes to the fair market value of property. The Board receives, reviews and insures the proper processing of all appeals. The Board reviews all applications for exemptions, and approves or denies the applications in accordance with the requirements set forth in Section 48-5-41 of the Georgia Code.”