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Officials see rise in tax appeals

Photo by Brian Giandelone

Photo by Brian Giandelone

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Even after new home assessments brought the county's tax digest down $3.3 billion, officials now have to contend with more than 30,000 appeals that could bring the number down further.

In May, 26,257 homeowners filed appeals to their county assessment -- nearly four times the number of residential appeals in 2010. Another 4,838 commercial appeals were filed.

While officials projected -- and budgeted for -- an 8.7 percent drop in the taxable value of homes, they are crunching the numbers on how much the appeals could cost in property tax revenue. A report is due to commissioners Tuesday.

The number of appeals was even higher than the generous upswing the county had predicted, since every homeowner received an assessment instead of the usual one-third each year. But Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said the impact of the appeals does not seem detrimental to county finances at this point.

"We have an idea what we think will happen with the tax digest. We have a sense of the magnitude," she said. "It looks like what we built our tax revenue projections on is not in a huge amount of jeopardy. ... We're not at the point where we need to revise our estimates."

A new law dictates counties must mail property assessment notices to every property owner each year, for the first time including information on how the assessment will translate into a tax bill later in the year.

The law also mandates that assessments of bank sales and foreclosed homes must match the value at which they were sold for the first year. That stipulation alone lowered the valued of 6,483 properties by a total of $300 million.

The appeals process takes months, although officials usually have an idea of its impact to the budget fairly quickly.

After filing, a homeowner will receive a letter from the Board of Tax Assessors with an adjustment to the original value. If the value is rejected by the homeowner, a hearing is set before the Board of Equalization -- a three-person panel. Hearings began in mid-June and are being scheduled for mid-July, officials said.