Like many others, I received a shock in late May in the form of my Annual Notice of Assessment from the Fulton County Board of Assessors (BOA). My assessment went up 65 percent.
On June 21, we on the Board of Commissioners voted to direct the BOA to use the 2016 residential property assessments with some modifications.
We all know that home values in metro Atlanta are recovering from the recession. Unfortunately, the BOA has not been keeping up with re-appraisals as it should have. As a result, we saw in 2017 sharp increases in appraisals that should have occurred more gradually.
State law requires counties to appraise properties at “fair market value.” The state notified Fulton’s BOA that, based on preliminary comparison of sales and tax appraisals on homes sold, Fulton homes were appraised at about 79 percent of fair market value in 2016. Failure of a county to appraise at fair market value can result, and has resulted, in fines from the state. Indeed, Fulton and the state Department of Revenue are in litigation over prior years’ issues.
I and my colleagues on the Fulton County Board of Commissioners worked hard with the Department of Revenue to find relief for the large increases in valuations and fairly obvious valuation errors, given constraints on our power under state law. We then found an old law that gave us the power to correct errors, and used that on June 21.
Following our June 21 vote, we are now looking to the state legislature to avoid a recurrence of the problem in future years.
Citizens should support any General Assembly member’s efforts in the next session to avoid this kind of sticker shock in the future.
Should they implement a cap on the percentage increase any homeowner incurs in a given year? Should they simplify the myriad of Fulton homestead exemptions for seniors based on age and income, which are so numerous, complicated and based on different definitions of income, that many entitled to them do not make use of them?
Should Atlanta ask for the provision that limits increases for residences to the Consumer Price Index? (This cap currently applies only to the Fulton County operating millage and the city of Sandy Springs millage.)
Finally, should Fulton County have a senior school tax exemption like Cobb County? We all know seniors who move from Fulton to Cobb solely because of the burden of the school tax.
Citizens who have a position on any of those topics should let their General Assembly representatives know.
Lee Morris is the Fulton County commissioner for District 3, which includes parts of Buckhead and Sandy Springs.