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Tax appeals could alter Hall County budget

Authorities may adjust spending, tap reserves if revenue falls short

POSTED: June 28, 2014 1:00 a.m.

Hall County may have to adjust its revenue projections and general fund budget once appeals of property assessments conclude in a few months.

About 6,550 lakefront properties were reassessed this year, and the change in home values promises higher taxes for some owners.

The re-evaluation of lakefront properties helped grow the tax digest by 6.58 percent.

This week, the Board of Commissioners approved a $90.268 million budget and set the property tax rate at 5.989, a full rollback that technically qualifies as no tax increase on county residents.

County finance officials budgeted a 2 percent loss on appeals in the spending plan, and adjustments to the general fund are likely depending on how far north or south of that estimate losses amount to.

“If we receive more revenue than expected, we can use those funds as the commission deems appropriate,” County Administrator Randy Knighton told The Times in an email. “However, if the revenues are less than anticipated, the county can elect to reduce spending or increase the amount of reserves needed.”

The 2 percent figure equals about $710,000 in revenue, according to finance officials.

Chief Tax Assessor Steve Watson said he has received about 2,830 appeals thus far, but he expects that number to grow substantially. All appeals mailed to the tax assessor’s office must be postmarked no later than June 30 to be heard.

Last year, appeals losses shrunk the tax digest by about 0.36 percent.

“We come up with what we feel like is a reasonable estimate of what the appeal loss will be,” Watson said, adding losses will certainly be more than 0.36 percent this year.

Watson said the appeals process is already underway and he expects to mail revised assessment notices in mid-August.

Watson said in 2012 the appeals losses were estimated at 2.5 percent but came in at just 1.67 percent.

Since 2007, the average appeals loss is 1.41 percent, although that figure jumped to 1.71 percent in the last three years, Watson said.

“Given the fact that we have accounted for the 2 percent appeal loss and we have experienced less than that in previous years, we think we are in good shape regarding the appeal matter,” Knighton said. “But we will continue to monitor all aspects of the budget to determine if any modifications are warranted.”


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