Hall County officials say a bill that would prevent local governments from increasing homeowners’ property assessments through 2011 wouldn’t have an effect locally.
House Bill 223 passed Thursday by the Georgia Senate would temporarily ban increases in a property’s assessed value.
The legislation was created to help stop tax increases for residents during the economic recession. Temporarily keeping assessments at their current values would prevent residents from paying higher taxes, provided local governments keep their millage rates the same.
Hall County Assistant Administrator Phil Sutton said Hall County hasn’t raised millage rates in years because the rate is set in accordance with property tax value assessments.
“The county for years has rolled back the millage rate to counteract any increases in property tax assessment,” Sutton said. “So what they’re doing with this is just not allowing the county’s tax assessors to reassess property upward. I don’t think there’s much push in the market place to push property tax assessments upward to begin with.”
Opponents of the bill, which passed in the Senate 42-5, say slowing the growth of property taxes could hurt local governments already struggling to pay for education, public safety and other services.
But Sutton said despite the economy, this will not be a problem for Hall County because it does not raise revenue that way.
“It tremendously limits, in fact eliminates, a government’s ability without a millage increase to raise new revenue,” he said. “But we don’t raise it that way anyway here. Some cities may, some counties may. Our county commissions have always been vigilant about not allowing increases in assessments to increase property taxes. So if we are going to have an increase in property taxes it’s actually done with a millage increase, which has only happened once since 2002.”
In 2002, the millage rate was 7.4 mills. As property assessments increased, the rate dropped to the current rate of 6.25 mills.
“So it’s revenue neutral,” Sutton said.
State Sen. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, supports the bill.
“The effort here in this economic environment is to help homeowners with their property taxes,” Hawkins said. “We’re taking a breath and giving homeowners a chance here for a couple of years to help make it through these difficult economic times.”