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New law may affect property value
Ga. bill will allow more time to file tax exemptions, appeals
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Starting in January, a new state law will take effect, creating a few changes in the way property values are assessed.

Senate Bill 346, signed in June by Gov. Sonny Perdue, will give people more time to file for tax exemptions and file appeals of their property value, among other changes.

"The really big thing is that we have to send an assessment to every taxpayer every year," said Don Elrod, Hall County's interim chief appraiser.

Starting in 2011, every property owner will receive an assessment, whether the value of their property changed or not.

"It won't be necessary to sign a return anymore for a notice, they're going to get one automatically," Elrod said.

Currently, the tax assessors office sends out 18,000 to 20,000 assessment notices each year. That number will go up to 76,000 this year.

Property owners also will have 45 days to appeal the value in that assessment, up from the current 30-day appeal period.

There will also be more time to file for tax exemptions under the new law.

All exemptions - with the exception of the Conservation Use exemption - can be applied for year round.

Though they must be applied for by April 1 to be included in the current tax year, Elrod said.

Another major change is that property purchased in 2010 for less than the county assessment on record will be taxed on the lower value.

"It's going to be beneficial to that guy that bought that $400,000 house for $150,000. He's going to have a much lower tax bill," Elrod said.

The downside to this portion of the new law is it will reduce the tax dollars the county will receive this year.

"It'll probably take close to $1 million off the digest," Elrod said.

State Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, said he voted in favor of this bill.

"We get a lot of calls about the assessed value of properties," Rogers said. "Of course now, unfortunately with property values being down, people want their assessments to go down. This was a way to take care of that issue."

The county will also struggle with the increased cost of sending out more assessment notices, which usually run $10,000 to $20,000.

"We're now looking at spending upwards of $56,000 to send notices," Elrod said.

Rogers said he understands the concern of local governments.

"Unfortunately if values continue to go down, then you don't have the tax base you once had, and it puts elected officials like the county commissioners in a seat where they say do we raise the millage rate or stay where we are? It's kind of a Catch-22 for all," Rogers said.

Elrod expects 15 to 20 percent of property owners will likely appeal this year as a result of the higher volume of assessments that will be mailed out.

"I would say this first year is going to be interesting to say the least," Elrod said. "And of course we're operating on an almost skeleton appraisal staff. I think we can get it handled.
Everybody's just going to have to double up."