Rader: So Your Tax Appraisal Came in High?

District 2 Commissioner Jeff Rader to his constituents about this year's property tax assessments.

By Jeff Rader

DeKalb County District 2 Commissioner

Annual Notices of Assessment hit homeowner's mailboxes last week, and many constituents have called expressing concern about substantial increases in their tax appraisal this year. The appraisal determines the value of property against which taxes are assessed, and are a key factor in your tax bill. I was surprised to hear this, as the DeKalb County real property tax digest overall is down by 7.8 percent overall this year. Our office is seeking more information from the assessor's office and will be responding to individual inquiries. We will also report back to the public on any patterns of reappraisal or systemic deficiencies we discover. Until we are able to get to the bottom of this, please keep the following in mind:

  • If you feel your property is not accurately appraised, please appeal your assessment. Instructions are included on the back page of your assessment notice or on the internet at https://etax.dor.ga.gov.
  • For personal assistance in appealing a tax appraisal, call Arthur Morrison at 404/371-2513 and Brian Jennings at 404/371-2808.
  • You must appeal within 45 days to preserve your appeal rights, otherwise you lose the right to appeal until next year. My Notice of Assessment lists July 17, 2012 as the deadline.
  • Appraisal procedures are structured by state law and the Georgia Department of Revenue and are supervised by the chief assessor. Chief Assessor Calvin Hicks is in turn appointed by the DeKalb County Board of Assessors (BOA), which supervises his work and reviews appraisals. The Board of Commissioners appoints the BOA, which must meet minimum qualifications and serve fixed terms. They cannot be prematurely removed without cause in order to protect the integrity of their decision-making process.
  • Appeals of appraisal are reviewed by the BOA and can be further appealed to the Boards of Equalization (BOE), then to the Superior Court. The BOE are regular citizens appointed by the Grand Jury who receive training, operate with administrative support from the Clerk of Superior Court, and are not connected to the Board of Assessors. This structure is intended to minimize any undue influence by the BOA on the BOE, just as the BOA's separate structure is intended to minimize undue influence by the Board of Commissioners, which of course is directly interested in the tax revenues that appraisals ultimately control.

Over the past few years, the appraisal process has become much more volatile and controversial. As sales prices inflated during the real estate bubble, appraisals did likewise. The General Assembly capped this inflationary appreciation for County taxes in 2006. If you haven't moved, your assessed value should not have increased above the 2006 level, unless you have made new improvements to your home. In 2010, the General Assembly mandated that nearby foreclosures be included as "comparable sales" for the purpose of appraising property. Such sales had previously been excluded as comparables under the reasoning that they were "forced sales" and didn't accurately reflect market conditions. Appraisals in neighborhoods where foreclosures were widespread plummeted, and tax revenues followed suit. The affect of this change was a substantial shift of the tax burden from newer development where equity was low and foreclosure was high to older stable neighborhoods which (thankfully!) have not seen excessive foreclosure. Without foreclosures, the comparables didn't decline, and neither did appraisals. Many of you live in such neighborhoods and are bearing a higher proportion of the county's tax burden than before.
Property taxes are one of the oldest forms of taxation and are founded on the assumption that property owners have the ability to pay the assessed taxes or else they would not have incurred the obligation. Real estate inflation and foreclosure deflation have strained the system, creating an undue burden on some and a windfall for others. Governments that grew during the bubble have been challenged by the need to maintain basic services now that tax revenues have tanked. Stability has been lost for all stakeholders and will only return when tax valuations are stabilized by taking inflationary bubbles and deflationary foreclosure out of the appraisal process.

Other Patch stories about property tax evaluations:

LadyDiff June 05, 2012 at 07:31 PM
I live in District 3/7 and saw our assessment drop by 40% (after a 15% drop last year). I agree with what Roger said, that the land and building values appear to be flipped. The one (completely inexplicable) pattern I've found is this: The smaller post-war ranches show "land value" at a whopping $4,800, 60s split-levels at $8,000, and the recently constructed craftsman style homes, $75,000. I don't understand why the so-called "land" value of homes with smaller lots than mine should be listed at a rate nearly 20 times my own. I understand that some foreclosures in my neighborhood likely drove our values down, and I am sure that some of my neighbors could really use this break. But I don't need it. I want to pay my taxes and encourage DPD to actually show up at my house when I call them, but Dekalb County seems to think their land and my home are worthless. Are there any other people in this situation? Is there anything to do about it? Should I just shut up and take the tax break?
Winnona Park Resident June 06, 2012 at 01:48 AM
Globally assess everyone each year using a real world home price average over the last several years . List this real evaluation in the public record for data integrity and if need be legislate tax increase protections for long tenured residents who have not made improvements or sold. Just don't make us look at ridiculous assesements. Anybody should be able to appeal a low or high evaluation and insist on correct county property data for anyone's home within a mile of their own home. That would be a self regulated system of data correction.
Decaturette June 06, 2012 at 06:41 AM
I would just take the tax break since the County does not seem concerned enough to fix this in a fair and systematic way. It would be different if they were showing a good faith effort. Instead the response seems to be that they are waiting for an accurate system next year and meanwhile the public has the burden of appealing, no guarantees.
Cheryl Miller June 12, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Perhaps it is because your newer home would be less likely a candidate for a tear-down by a builder, whereas an older home in a good location might be something a builder / investor would buy, making the land more "valuable" aka expensive for a purchase and acceptable for demolishing the structure. Sounds a bit harsh. I have an older home and love it because it is so well built. My land value should be based on its location and size, not on how desirable it might be to someone else for their own private agenda.


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