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Flowery Branch officials scratching heads over preliminary tax digest
Revenue collection in question after valuations 'all out of whack'
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A look at the preliminary Hall County tax digest has Flowery Branch officials wondering if the 2.14 percent projected increase is accurate.

Finance Director Jeremy Perry said he is uncertain whether reassessment appeals will mean collection of less revenue than being projected.

That was last year’s scenario after the mayor and council took verbal tongue-lashings from property owners who expressed their displeasure at reassessments and with the council’s decision not to roll back the millage rate. Even with that, the city did not receive the amount of money which the county digest had projected would be generated through reassessment and from new property or improvements to existing property.

Councilman Fred Richards questioned how the final digest could be available on May 20, according to Perry’s provided digest-related calendar, since the final appeals date is May 31. He said he knew many property owners, including many of his neighbors, were filing appeals.

Perry gave the council a snapshot of the preliminary digest from Hall County and expressed his concerns. He said he is seeing reassessments moving downward when property values should be going up.

While county reassessments showed positives in 2015, the new values are negatives.

“It’s all out of whack,” said Perry, who cited three property assessments as examples of varying valuations which have him issuing a word of caution to the council. One property was assessed at $71,461 in 2013 and $71,440 in 2014 but jumped to $765,640 in 2015, only to be reduced to a value of $71,440 for 2016. The two other examples had similar spikes in values for 2015 only to be racheted back down for 2016. He said that was troublesome when it comes to projecting for budget purposes.

City Manager Bill Andrews said some of the assessment errors made are “unbelievable” as he noted that one property owner’s valuation was lowered when he showed that his property did not have the direct access to Interstate 985 which the assessor had assumed.

“We don’t know if a 2 percent increase is actually going to happen,” said Perry, who noted 3.337 percent millage rate of 2015 may bring in an additional $66,940 to the city. With the rollback to a millage rate of 3.267, the revenues may be $45,440, provided that the preliminary digest values hold with volume of appeals still to be decided.

The proposed increase for a home with a fair market value of $200,000 would be approximately $5.60 with the proposed tax increase for a no-homestead property with market value of $175,000 of $4.90.

Perry provided the timeline for public hearings if the council opts against the rollback, prompting advertisement of an increase in property taxes. Hearings would be at 6 p.m. on June 2, at 9 a.m. on June 9 and at 6 p.m. on June 16. At the June 16 meeting, the council will consider approval of the millage rate.