If the housing bust and attendant recession lowered property values, the word hasn’t gotten to Jackson County yet.
The county’s preliminary tax digest shows a 1.3-percent growth in value. The digest is the basis for property taxation.
The spartan growth is bad news for governments that rely on increases in the taxable value of property to bring in more money each year, but it’s also bad news for taxpayers who expected to pay less in property taxes this year because their houses and land are worth less. In many areas of Georgia, housing prices have fallen 25 percent or more, but tax digests largely do not reflect that market truth.
More than 500 Jackson County taxpayers aren’t buying the official version of their property’s value and have filed appeals. Should the appeals be successful, it is not out of the question that the tax digest could shrink, something that has not happened since the Great Depression.
In Commerce, the preliminary digest shows a 4.5-percent growth over 2008, according to Steve McKown, the city’s finance director. That’s something of a relief for someone who tries to find the money to fund a city budget each year.
“If we leave the 1.5-mill tax rate, we’ll collect 12,000 more dollars,” said McKown, who termed the revenue growth as “flat.”
“I would call it flat,” he explained. “There are some changes, but there are other changes in the digest that cancel them out.”
Any successful appeals filed by Commerce residents could reduce that “growth” figure, but that’s not what worries McKown.
“What scares me is how much will be collected,” McKown said, noting that the city has generally received about 95 percent of taxes in the year the taxes were levied.
Not last year.
“This past year it was 88 percent. People just didn’t have the money to pay their taxes,” McKown said. “That is a little scary to me.”
The city will hold a tax sale this year for which McKown budgeted $25,000 in tax revenue.
“When you start advertising a tax sale, people will pay their taxes - or lose their property,” he noted.
A new Georgia law froze assessments for two years, meaning the only way the tax digest can grow is through additions of new property or an adjustment of the value following the sale of the property. Traditionally, local government was required to base its assessments on the current value of property - its fair market value.
Such a move would prevent some of the rapid growth in the tax digest experienced in recent years - 23 percent in 2006-07, 14 percent in 2005-06, for example.
“It’s not going to be a problem this year,” noted McKown, alluding to falling property values, “and it may not be a problem the next two years.”
The preliminary figures say Commerce’s tax digest grew from $175.3 million in 2008 to $183.7 million in 2009.
The government giveith, the government takeith away. In a classic case of desperation, greediness, short-sightedness, or just plain stupidity, while one part of the government gives out money to help the economy, another part raises taxes, adds fees, and refuses to value property at a true value, just so the government can maintain the "pork" projects while the every day person is losing retirement funds, jobs and even their homes. Those of us that have been fortunate enough to hang on by a thread will now be forced into the acts of desperation we have so far been able to avoid, because the government refuses to do what WE have been FORCED to do. Cut painfully...and do without. The government employees and elected officials are so concerned with THEIR jobs and THEIR budgets that they have forgotten that the tax payer's pockets are NOT limitless wells of funds. When will they finally stop and realize that the common tax payer has already been pushed beyond their ability to pay and pay and PAY? When? After the last of us have lost everything and there ARE no more tax payers?
For the sake of American's everywhere, will SOMEONE in government realize that its time to stop paying those people who's jobs don't amount to anything but another waste of money and really look at those expenses and projects that don't REALLY need to be done today? When will someone in the government have the strength of character to stand up to the "money for nothings" and start spending tax dollars for the REALLY important and needed things, and let the rest go? Just like we, the tax payers, have had to do.
Fix the potholes. Fix the bridges. Wait until you can truly afford to put in a new playground or softball field. Hire a few deputies, gets some new EMTs. Wait to build a new office for the undersecretary of whatnots until the economy can stand it.
People...THINK. When you pick up the phone and dial 911, do you want that ambulance/police car to show up, or do you want little Johnny to be able to go play softball or soccer?
You can't have both, not in THIS economy. Use some "uncommon" sense, use some GOOD judgement. Pay for what we REALLY NEED and wait for the rest until (IF) times are better.
Just my once cent, in this economy I can't afford two cents.