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Lanier homeowners can sound off on tax reassessments

Higher values could translate to higher taxes

POSTED: March 31, 2014 11:59 p.m.

Area residents have a couple of chances to hear from Hall County officials about lakefront property reassessments, which might come as sticker shock for some.

The Hall County Tax Assessors Office has set community meetings for 6 p.m. Thursday at the North Hall Community Center and at 6 p.m. April 17 at the Mulberry Creek Community Center in South Hall.

The office, which is planning to mail out notices in May, is completing a “real estate equalization project” involving an in-depth study of lakefront property values and how they align with respective property sales.

To help with that effort, the county hired GMASS Inc. of Dawsonville in late July, a contract that cost $327,500. GMASS has conducted residential, land and commercial and industrial appraisals in other Georgia counties, including Gwinnett, Barrow, Dawson and Franklin.

“In the past, we’ve been overassessing regular, nonlakefront property, but we’ve been significantly underassessing lakefront property,” Hall Chief Appraiser Steve Watson said in a March interview.

“And, of course, the goal is to get them all on the same page. Now, we’re seeing a reason to raise even nonlakefront property, which we’re in the process of doing at the same time.

“So, it’s not like we’re just picking lakefront property out and ... increasing their values this year and not paying attention to everything else. It’s just that what we’re doing is we’re not disregarding lakefront property anymore.”

Higher land values could translate to higher taxes, depending on the tax rates set by area governments.

“Equalization is nothing new,” Watson said.

“We’re constantly analyzing and updating property values. However, this project has been extremely large and complex. That’s why it’s important for us to make sure citizens understand the project and how it will affect their property taxes.”

Val Perry, president of Lake Lanier Association, said Hall officials have talked to the group’s board about the issue.

“Our comments at the time were it’s probably right to get it balanced with other counties, but the fact they haven’t done it in five or six years is not the homeowners’ fault,” he said.

“My personal advice to them is to gradually go into this instead of socking it to (homeowners). Some of them could quadruple in their assessments.”

Watson said the meetings will be an opportunity for him to also explain why inconsistencies weren’t corrected sooner.

One of the issues the office faced, Watson said, was a 2009-11 statewide moratorium on raising values.

Then, in 2012, Watson has said, “we were trying to finish up trying to respond to the downturn in the economy, with the other 60,000 or 70,000 parcels we’ve got in the county. We were having lower property values on a wholesale basis.”

As the economy started its uptick in 2013, “we started to increase values in some cases, which didn’t include lakefront properties at that time,” he said. “We didn’t have the staff to do the review we needed to do on (them).”


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