After more than a month of frustration, calls for action and confusion, the Fulton County Board of Assessors decided not to rescind the 2017 tax digest and rollback assessment values to 2016 levels as requested by two county commissioners.
“There’s nothing more we can do,” said Board of Assessors member Brandi Hunter.
11Alive News was the first media outlet to report property assessments went up dramatically for the majority of Fulton County homeowners. For some, it was an increase of 200+%. In laymen’s terms, that means many Fulton County homeowners will be paying a lot more in taxes. For some, it could amount to thousands of dollars more in taxes.
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“Last year I paid $660, this year you're asking me to pay $3,000!,” said Harry Cox. “I want the legislature to put a 5% cap of all properties!!”
Two members of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, Chairman John Eaves and Vice Chairman Bob Ellis, asked the Board of Assessors to rescind values for a minimum of 30 days to review the boards’ process and methodologies in response to numerous errors they found throughout the digest.
“We cannot cause harm to the people we are sworn to protect. You do not want to be on the wrong side of history for this, said Sen. John Albers speaking on behalf of his constituents in North Fulton County. “If you don’t fix this problem, I will!”
More than half of homeowners saw their assessments rise 20% or more. In a map (shown above) released by the Chief Appraiser of Fulton County, Dwight Robinson, you can see the biggest assessment increases in red. Homes in those areas received increases of 50% or more.
“The 2016 digest, we did not do a residential review for 2016 so we have had to play catch up,” said Robinson. “So those increases represent not just 1 year. It represents 2 or 3 years when nothing was done.”
Robinson says he’s making up for lost time, when the previous Fulton County appraiser did not raise assessments. Robinson says he was notified by the Department of Revenue that the county faced steep fines if it did not begin assessing properties at their real-life value. By law, the county must assess properties between 90-110% of their actual market value. Fulton County was assessing its properties, on average, at a rate of 79% of market value.
That’s little comfort to thousands of homeowners who are in sticker shock after receiving their 2017 assessments.
“That's just wrong,” said Tracy Thornill, an Atlanta resident. “We can't continue to do this. We want to work with you guys, but let's be reasonable. ”
This issue touched every part of the county. From Milton in the north to Chattahoochee Hills in the south. But, perhaps, the most impacted are homes alone the Beltline. The development along the Beltline has been a blessing for many neighborhoods, flooding them with new families and developers who are renovating older properties and bringing property values up. However, long-time residents worry they’ll be pushed out of the homes they’ve lived in for years.
“My husband was killed in an accident and I have fond memories of him (in our house),” said Elizabeth Roarke, a longtime Atlanta resident, who’s assessment went up 65% in one year. Roarke said she may eventually be forced to move out of her home if its assessments continues to rise.
Chief Appraiser Robinson did announce one major change today. The 1,800 homeowners whose assessments were “unfrozen” and assessed at a higher rate would remain frozen. Robinson said the county attorney informed him it was not legal to “unfreeze” property assessments earlier than promised.
Sonny Letak is a resident of Old Fourth Ward, who’s dealt with several years of assessment increases. However, his concern lies not with himself but with his neighbor. She’s an elderly woman on a fixed income who’s who’s lived in the neighborhood since 1975.
“Why would you raise her property tax,” said Letak. “Her house is the same since 1975. It hasn’t changed. Nobody’s built anything. There are no improvements to it. She’s lived here. She’s on a fixed income. She’s been in this neighborhood since it was horrible.”
Since the assessor’s decided to make no change, homeowner’s only recourse now is to file an appeal. You have until July 10 to file. You can do that on the Fulton County Board of Tax Assessors website.
Homeowners should also file for any applicable exemptions which include homestead, tax deferral for the elderly, school tax exemptions, and exemptions for veterans and spouses.
Exemption applications are due between Jan. 1 and April 1. Any applications filed now will not go into effect until the 2018 tax year, if they're approved for the exemption.
Any questions homeowners have regarding property tax assessment appeals or homestead exemptions may be directed to the Fulton County Board of Tax Assessors at 404-612-6440.