Fulton reassessments out of control



I want to make it clear to north Fulton residents that all hands are on deck to address skyrocketing property tax reassessments and the prospect of (even more) unaffordable property taxes.

Unfortunately, real solutions to the recent massive property tax reassessments may take a while. That’s small solace to a family raising children and paying the bills or a retiree wishing to remain in the community.

At this juncture, if you disagree with the valuation, I recommend homeowners with a 5 percent or higher reassessment file an appeal with the county. The county extended the appeals deadline to July 10.

Like many of you, I was aghast when I opened my reassessment notice from the Fulton County Board of Assessors (BOA). Shortly thereafter, I realized what I’d thought was merely my problem was a debacle for good, hardworking and retired taxpayers throughout Fulton.

No one in their right mind would believe one-quarter of Fulton County parcels could have 50 percent or higher justifiable revaluations. Or that 50 percent of the county merits 20 percent or higher reassessments.

Residents have further reason for skepticism. A 2005 independent audit of the BOA revealed significant operational deficiencies. Then, the board failed property valuation performance reviews conducted by the Georgia Department of Revenue in 2010 and 2013. Litigation is ongoing. Finally, the state is currently reviewing Fulton’s 2016 valuations due to suspected problems.

My home’s assessment and, thus, my property taxes did not decline by one red cent during the greatest recession since the Great Depression and the ensuing real estate collapse. That’s true for many. This means fellow residents paid higher taxes for years than their property values merited.

North Fulton state legislators and the locally elected officials I have spoken with are 100 percent committed to putting remedies in place, including changing the reassessment process. One long-term solution would freeze homeowners’ reassessments as long as they own their home through a new homestead exemption for school board and city taxes. This would require state legislation when the Legislature reconvenes in January 2018 and a subsequent voter referendum in November.

I am confident about the prospects of this measure. The freeze could only apply going forward, though, not retroactively.

As background, our property tax bill has three parts: School board, county and city. The school board portion comprises roughly 55 percent, county 30 percent and city 15 percent.

One bright spot is an existing homestead exemption that freezes reassessments for the 30 percent county portion of property tax bills. As for current senior exemptions, there are few, except for fully disabled or very low income households. In contrast, most surrounding counties have generous school board homestead exemptions.

As an example of our cities, Milton has a $15,000 general senior exemption that I put in place at the time of incorporation. Alpharetta has the most generous city general homestead exemption in the state at $40,000.

The FC Board of Assessors (BOA) are a quasi-independent board appointed by the County Commission as a whole. The BOA has the sole discretion to approve a package of reassessments.

Solutions will not be the result of any one person, but rather the work of locally elected officials, state representatives and senators and citizens’ input. I suggest you make it clear to your elected representatives that you want protections through homestead exemptions and millage rate roll-backs so you can predictably afford to pay your property taxes and live in north Fulton.

We have an awesome quality of life; we just pay too much for it.

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