Legislature should give property owners some relief

Kudos for The Telegraph report [07/02/07] describing the current tax situation in Bibb County that may saddle county taxpayers with thousands of dollars in penalties and tax arrears.

Now we read that Bibb County Chief Appraiser, Jim Davis, is looking for a private consulting firm with an incredible price tag of $2.5 million to do another property tax assessment in Bibb County.

This situation should make property owners tremble, not only because of the penalties and accumulating bills, but also because of the coming tax increase that will follow, if the situation in neighboring Baldwin County is any guide.  

In 2004, Baldwin County property owners had the misfortune of having a tax reevaluation assessed by a private consulting firm, Technical Appraisal Services of Georgia, whose web site address is Macon, Georgia. Arbitrarily, Baldwin County property owners, particularly those on Lake Sinclair, suddenly saw their property assessments skyrocket without on-site inspections and without furnishing any evidence the real estate market in Baldwin County had bloomed to anything approaching the extent of that increase.

Property tax assessments were doubled from $200,000 to $400,000 and from $400,000 to $800,000 overnight! This company disdained appeals, and the Baldwin County Commissioners washed their hands of the matter, as if they had no control over the situation. Officers of the company, who I have been told was Mr. Jimmy Kight, Vice President of Technical Appraisals, stated there had not been a tax assessment in ten years, and the tax increases were necessary to bring the tax digest in Baldwin County up to date. Property owners were told there would be no further tax assessments for another ten years.

Guess what? There were more tax increases in Baldwin County the very next year! By then, of course, representatives from Technical Appraisals were not around!

They only started the ball rolling: One property owner, a retiree who described his situation (published in the Union Recorder), saw his property assessment raised from $67,000 in 2004 to $167,000 in 2005, and to $379,000 in 2006! Tax increases went through the roof without a general, proportionate real increase in property value sales.

Many of the hapless property owners with tears in their eyes testified time and again at Baldwin County Commission meetings, but to no avail. It was a contemptible situation, and many longtime, property owners have since sold their property and moved out.

It is not surprising that in the U.S. there are over one million homes foreclosed or lost to tax sales annually. Sadly, Georgia is one of the states leading the way. In preparation for tax digest, tax officials and the Georgia legislature must keep in mind that the situation in Atlanta and its affluent suburbs of Gwinnett and Dekalb counties are not equivalent to Baldwin or Bibb counties in Middle Georgia, just as the situation in Lakes Lanier and Oconee are not comparable to Lake Sinclair.

Property taxes are becoming insufferable, particularly in rural areas. These are difficult times and the real estate market is not doing well, particularly in Middle Georgia. In Bibb County, the county commissioners, and, in Atlanta, the state legislature should step up to the plate and give Georgia property owners some needed relief.

Written by Dr. Miguel Faria

Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D. is a retired professor of Neurosurgery and a former member of the CDC Grant Review Committee for Injury Prevention and Control 2002-2005.

This letter to the editor was published in the Macon Telegraph on July 9, 2007, p. 9A

Copyright ©2007 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D.


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