Hall County sent out more than 75,000 tax assessment notices to residents on Friday, but officials want to make sure they don't pay their taxes just yet.
"This estimate uses last year's millage rates and exemptions and gives an approximation of what their taxes are going to be," said Steve Watson, the county's chief tax appraiser. "Some will want to come in and actually pay them, and we need to help folks realize they don't need to do that."
Because of a new state law, counties are required to send an assessment notice to every property owner notifying them of the value of their property, regardless if it has changed.
Residents have 45 days to appeal the assessment by mail or in person. The tax office features an appeal form on its website.
The Board of Commissioners will set the property tax rate at their June 23 meeting. Tax bills will be mailed Aug. 1, with the first installment due Oct. 1 and the second installment due Dec. 1.
About 30 percent, or 21,189, of the assessment notices will show a decrease in property value. On average, the decrease is about 28 percent, Watson said.
In total, Hall County's properties have lost about $590.5 million in fair market value countywide since last year. Also under new state law, properties sold the previous year must be valued at or below the purchase or acquisition price, including bank sales and foreclosures, Watson said.
The high volume of assessment notices likely will generate a higher number of people appealing their property values, which will continue to drive down tax digest numbers.
Hall County officials continue to watch digest numbers as they calculate the budget and determine a way to fill the $9 million gap.
"A 4.38 percent decrease is given. It is gone. It is out the door," Jock Connell, interim county administrator, saidlast week. "Anything else will be on top of that, so the question is determining if it will be 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 percent."
On Thursday, commissioners approved the creation of two additional boards of equalization to handle the increase in appeals. They also authorized hearing officers, who oversee parts of the appeal process, to be compensated at $25 per hour.
"We have to plan a year ahead and ask the board members to complete 40 hours of training, which is part of why I'd like to get a proclamation," said Charles Baker, the county's clerk of courts. "I have several people who just passed the test, and 12-15 are ready for hearings now, so we have a pot to pick from for the six spots plus alternates."
The extra boards will be funded through a special revenue fund in Baker's office that come from court fees, said Lisa Johnsa, the county's interim finance director.
"This is not from the general fund. We're trying to be proactive and give Charles the ability to prepare so this will flow as quickly as possible and we can get the digest filled as quickly as possible," she said. "We want to try to work out as many appeals as possible through the assessors' office, so we hope we're going to see few go to this stage."