The proposed millage rate for 2014 in incorporated areas remains 10.97, or a 0.21 mill increase, and for unincorporated areas 9.68, an increase of 0.413 mills. Those rates remain unchanged from 2013.
“We are keeping the millage rate the same because we are still climbing out of the hole created by several years of recession, falling sales tax and falling property tax. The overall tax digest is predicted to only increase 0.2 percent, and so, if we let the tax rate fall to the rollback rate, revenue would decline,” County Administrator Peter Olson said. “As it stands, keeping it the same just keeps us pretty much where we were for 2013. The real property portion of the digest climbed about 5 percent, but the motor vehicle portion declined 20 percent due to [title ad valorem tax]. Every time a vehicle changes hands now drops it off the tax rolls.”
A public notice sent out at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday said the tentative millage rate would require an increase in property taxes by 4.46 percent for unincorporated Bartow and 1.95 percent for incorporated portions of the county.
“... The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $125,000 [in unincorporated Bartow] is approximately $20.65 and the proposed tax increase for nonhomestead property with a fair market value of $275,000 is approximately $45.43,” the notice read. “... The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $125,000 [in incorporated Bartow] is approximately $10.50 and the proposed tax increase for nonhomestead property with a fair market value of $275,000 is approximately $23.10.”
The state requires that the county advertise the unchanged rate as a tax increase because Georgia measures change not against the actual prior-year millage rate but against the rollback rate, which is calculated by subtracting any increase in the digest due to reassessment.
“I would add that we do not consider this a tax increase since we are keeping the millage rates the same as last year. The state passed the law requiring it to be called an increase since the state compares this year’s millage not last year’s actual rates, but rather against the ‘rollback rate.’ Yet the rollback rate does not take into effect the net overall change in the digest, but only the increase due to reassessment in real property,” Olson said. “In addition, that law would — in theory — have allowed the county to increase the millage rate during the downturn when the reassessment values were falling, without advertising it as a tax increase. It is not a very logical requirement in my opinion, and reflects the fact that certain members of the General Assembly dislike local property taxes.”
Public hearings on the millage rate will be held today at 9 a.m and 6 p.m. and July 23 at 9 a.m. before the public meeting to adopt the millage at 10 a.m. The change will be effective on the 2014 tax bills, due in November, and are based on the Jan. 1, 2014, assessed value.
According to a press release from the county, “... If your own assessment did not change, your taxes will be the same as last year.”
The county has received some feedback from residents after assessments were mailed out this spring.
“In regards to assessments, we have heard a few comments about folks who objected to their reassessment, and we advise them to appeal the assessment, as is their right. However, often when I ask if someone would sell their property for the assessment, they reply, ‘Of course not,’” Olson said. “The goal of the Board of Tax Assessors is to assess property at its accurate fair market value, so I understand people are upset if their assessment goes up, but unless it goes up beyond what the property would sell for, it’s not an inaccurate assessment.
“The state of Georgia reviews the tax assessors every year, checking over 1,000 sales against their assessments. This is known as the Sales Ratio Study. Our assessments in 2013 were judged, overall, to be 99.625 percent of the 100 percent digest value. In other words, nearly perfect. This is an average, so there are some that may be a bit high and there are some that may be a bit low. That is because appraising 44,000 parcels requires mass appraisal methods. We do not have the staff to conduct 44,000 individual appraisals. But it shows that, overall, the appraisal staff does an excellent job when their work is compared to actual sales prices.”