Property owners have until May 28 to appeal their property tax assessments, which include the value of the property and an estimate of the future property tax bill.
The due date for an appeal is on the property tax assessment taxpayers received in the mail. Chief Appraiser Steve Watson said some bills were mailed in a second batch of assessments and those appeals are due June 17.
The tax estimate on the assessment notice is not a bill—the estimate is based on the current year’s assessed value and the previous year’s millage rate. The county’s new fiscal year begins July 1, and the county could adopt a different millage rate when commissioners approve the budget in late June.
The actual estimate of tax cannot be appealed, but people who disagree with the property valuation can appeal it.
The county received about 1,200 appeals as of Wednesday, Watson said.
Watson said the Tax Assessor’s Office looks at nearby property sales to decide the value of each property.
“We look at the market and what property is selling for within a particular neighborhood or an area or a type of property. We make the proper adjustments based on what the property is selling for in the most previous calendar year,” he said. “We can’t use sales that occur in 2019 to establish the 2019 property value. We have to use sales that occur in calendar year 2018.”
People can report changes to their home, like the finishing of a basement, that might affect its value to the Tax Assessor’s Office. Watson said sometimes, the county is not aware of issues that would change a property’s value and can work with property owners to adjust the value based on any changes.
“Sometimes, property owners will make certain written notes that will help us identify potential issues that we may not know about,” Watson said. “There could be some dysfunction with the house and functional obsolescence that we don’t know about, some physical deterioration that maybe we don’t know about, and that helps us in that process.”
Functional obsolescence refers to features at a property that are outdated or worn out, according to the American Society of Appraisers.
Increasing the assessed value of a home incrementally is generally not possible, Watson said. However, the county tries to minimize large increases by revaluing properties more often, he said.
“If we stay more on top of the market and revalue property more frequently, then the need to make large increases is minimized,” he said in an email. “... If there is more time between years that a property value is updated for market reasons, then there is more of a chance that the average increase to the property valuation is going to be more.”
Watson said that when the Tax Assessor’s Office receives an appeal of a property value, they send an appraiser to check out the property in person.
“We do a physical inspection of all the property appeals that we get. So, ultimately, we come on site and make sure that everything is accounted for,” he said.
The property owner will then either get a revised assessment or be notified that no changes were made. If a property owner still does not agree with the value, they then have 30 days to appeal the value again, this time to the Board of Equalization. If the property owner does not take action within 30 days, the new valuation will be forwarded to the Tax Commissioner’s Office for billing.
The Board of Equalization most recently met in April and Watson said the board’s next meeting will likely be in the fall.
“The Board of Equalization is three citizens that are selected by the grand jury, and they have an alternate, that sit and listen to the property owners’ position and the county’s position and make their decision based off of what they hear that day,” Watson said.
If a property owner disagrees with the Board of Equalization's decision, they can then appeal to the Hall County Superior Court within 30 days of the ruling. That appeal would be filed with the Board of Assessors office, and a settlement conference is scheduled within 45 days. The settlement conference can have two outcomes, Watson said. A settlement can be reached, and the appeal would then not go to Superior Court. If an agreement cannot be reached, the property owner has 25 days to certify the appeal and pay a $25 fee to file it with the Clerk of Court. The appeal is then put on the Superior Court docket.
Property owners also will see a list of tax districts on their assessments. These new tax service districts went into effect in 2018 and are a result of the county’s state-mandated service delivery strategy with its municipalities.
The agreement helps ensure that taxpayers are being taxed for the services they receive. For example, a city of Gainesville resident would not pay county taxes for parks because the city has its own parks system.