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Property values growing in Hall
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Hall County real estate assessments jumped $275 million in 2017, and county leaders would need to roll back the tax rate almost 4 percent to stay even with last year’s numbers.

The unofficial 2017 tax digest shows a $500 million increase, including the reassessments, $211 million in new construction and $85 million in personal property, which is mostly boats.

The digest, valued now at $7.3 billion, is the total of all taxable property in the county. The final figures will vary. It was worth $6.8 billion in 2016.

Now at 5.716 mills, the property tax rate would need to drop to 5.501 mills to avoid a tax increase on county property owners based on preliminary numbers obtained last week through an open records request.

Reassessments are performed by the Hall County Tax Assessor’s Office, which has the job of adjusting official property values each year based on the performance of the market. It can be a contentious process.

Increasing values of existing homes are outpacing the value of new construction by almost $65 million, and a local real estate expert said the Hall County market is “warm, but not hot.”

“There’s a tight inventory of available houses because we continue to have population growth and (we’re) not keeping up with that population growth in the way of new housing stock,” said Frank Norton Jr.

There are hot spots in senior housing, as Hall deals with demand created by the aging of the baby boomer generation, and retail along Dawsonville Highway, but core communities aren’t seeing any growth in retail, grocery stores or pharmacies, according to Norton.

Meanwhile, the county has strong employment growth and low unemployment. The Georgia Department of Labor announced on Thursday that metro Gainesville’s unemployment has fallen to 3.9 percent, the lowest level since November 2007.

It’s the lowest rate in Georgia, and Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce President Kit Dunlap told the Times that “a diverse economy is growing and needing some workers.”

But much of the job growth was concentrated in service industries, where workers have moderate incomes. When these people search for housing, they’re hitting a wall.

“We’re a community of average people with average credit buying average goods and services, buying average houses,” Norton said. “I think their value of the dollar has diminished since 2008 and continues to diminish. Their purchasing power for houses and for other goods and services has diminished as prices march on. I think it’s the average Hall Countian that’s feeling a little squeezed.”

He pointed to federal regulations, including those created by Dodd-Frank, as the reason why banks and other lenders are less likely to let go of their money. When they do, homebuyers are being asked to jump through more and more hoops.

“They want all your financial information,” Norton said. “They want everything including your unborn grandchildren’s blood type.”

Both average people in the county and the county government have an interest in seeing more new construction.

Reassessments determine whether the tax rate would have to be rolled back to remain revenue-neutral.

New construction doesn’t come with the same requirement for the county. If your neighbor builds a $400,000 house next door, the new value wouldn’t affect the rollback rate, but its effect on your home’s value would.

Including the personal property, mobile homes, motor vehicles, timber and heavy equipment in the area, Hall County is worth $7.93 billion. It was worth $7.41 billion in 2016.

Appeals of assessments are still working their way through the system, and there’s always a portion of taxes that goes uncollected each year for a number of reasons, according to County Finance Director Zachary Propes. The final figures will vary, and county tax collections will come in lower than the preliminary digest suggests.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners will vote on the budget, including the fiscal year 2018 tax rate, in June.

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