Thursday, July 2, 2015

City Hall closed tomorrow

City Hall, including the tax office, will be closed tomorrow, July 3, in observance of Independence Day.  If you need tax or business license information online during the holiday weekend, please go to  Sanitation schedule information is here.  The fireworks show in downtown Decatur will probably start a little after 9 p.m. on Saturday.  City Hall will reopen on Monday, July 6 at 8 a.m.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Now hiring

Decatur is searching for a new administrative assistant who will alternate duties between the Revenue Division and the city's human resources office.  Major job duties and requirements for the position are outlined here.  Applications are due by this Friday.  The position was approved with the adoption of Decatur's budget for the new fiscal year which begins today.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Georgia Court of Appeals rules against tax sale buyers

Two people who bought multiple properties at tax sales in Newton County appealed and then sued to get a lower assessment on those properties. They argued that the amount they bid at the tax sales should have served as the basis for their assessed value the following year. The Georgia Court of Appeals has ruled against the buyers.  The court determined that tax sales doesn't constitute an arm's length, bona fide sale because 1) the original owner has a year to redeem the property, and 2) the original owner is not a party to the sale.

In training sessions and conferences I've attended, officials from the state Department of Revenue always emphasize that fair market value is what a willing buyer and a willing seller would agree to at an arm's length sale. In my opinion, a person losing their property at a tax sale isn't normally "willing" nor a "seller." So this seems like a pretty good decision to me. From the Newton Citizen last week:
COVINGTON — The Georgia Court of Appeals has upheld a ruling in favor of the Newton County Tax Assessor’s Office, affirming that a tax sale does not qualify as an “arm’s length, bona fide” transaction for the purpose of setting property tax values. 
Newton County Attorney Tommy Craig advised commissioners of the court’s ruling at the June 16 Board of Commissioners meeting. “I promised you we would win this case, and now we have,” he said.
According to the Appeals Court, property owners W.D. Ballard and Nancy Mock had purchased 22 parcels of land in Newton County at tax sales during 2012. In April 2013, the Tax Assessor’s Office sent Ballard and Mock the 2013 tax values of the properties, which did not match the 2012 tax sale purchase prices. Ballard and Mock unsuccessfully appealed to the Newton County Board of Equalization and to Newton County Superior Court, which granted summary judgment to the Board of Equalization. 
Ballard and Mock had argued that under Georgia law the 2013 assessed value should have been frozen at the tax sale value. According to the law, ” … the transaction amount of the most recent arm’s length, bona fide sale in any year shall be the maximum allowable fair market value for the next taxable year.” 
However, the trial court noted that the owner of property sold at a tax sale has a one-year right to redeem the property, which would essentially rescind the tax sale, and that the purchaser in a tax sale does not receive a fee simple title to the property. In addition, the court ruled that since the owner is not a participant in the sale, there is no arm’s length, bona fide sale. The Appeals Court upheld those findings. 
According to the Tax Assessor’s Office, Mock and Ballard purchased the 22 parcels, five of which included a house, between March 2012 and December 2012...

If the court had ruled the other way, it could have opened the door to confusion or discrepancies for properties that are sold in tax sales by a county and by a city during the same year.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Most metro-area governments hold millage rates steady

Several of the largest metro-Atlanta governments and school boards are keeping the same millage rates in 2015 as they had in 2014.  Gwinnett County and its school system, Atlanta Public Schools, Cobb county schools, Cherokee County Schools, and the City of Roswell all appear to be keeping the same property tax rate this year as last year.  However, growth in property values in some of those jurisdictions means that some of them may have advertised property tax increases under state law.

A few jurisdictions in the area are actually proposing millage rate decreases.  Those include the City of DecaturDeKalb County, and Henry County.  But those millage rate reductions may be offset or cancelled out on tax bills by increases in property values.

The Forsyth County school system is proposing an increase in their millage rate of 1 mill.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Governor vetoes tax credits for insurance companies

After approval by the General Assembly, Gov. Nathan Deal signed almost every tax-related bill that made it to his desk this year.  The main exception was House Bill 439, which would have created up to $55 million in insurance premium tax credits for insurance companies that invest in low-income communities in Georgia.  Deal vetoed HB 439 saying that it "would have too much of an impact on the general fund."  The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute called the proposal "complex," "unaccountable," and a "bad investment" that has worked poorly when tried in other states.  GBPI estimated that the credits would have totaled up to $139 million over the next seven years.

Insurance companies pay annual insurance premium taxes to the state which are partly distributed to cities and counties.  The City of Decatur receives approximately $1 million annually in insurance premium taxes.  Insurance companies also pay occupation taxes directly to Georgia's local governments if they write policies in those jurisdictions.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

City offers payment grace period until June 15

Property taxes in Decatur were due June 1. But the City offers a 10-business day grace period during which no penalties or interest apply to late payments. That grace period will end on Monday, June 15.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Property tax payments due today, June 1

Real property tax payments for Decatur's first installment billing for 2015 are due today.  Payment for commercial sanitation services including dumpster and cart service for 2015 is also due no later than June 1.

If you recently made a payment but you don't see that payment reflected on our website, please keep in mind that, even for in-person payments, it may take 7 to 10 business days after your check has cleared before your payment is applied to your account. We honor postmarks, so don’t worry about additional interest accruing if you mailed your payment in on time.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

DeKalb County's property assessment notices on the way

By Andrea Arnold

The DeKalb County Tax Assessor’s office will be mailing annual assessment notices to property owners beginning Friday, May 29th.  These notices communicate 2015 property values set by DeKalb County for residential and commercial property.  Based on reports from the DeKalb County Appraiser’s Office, the total value of property within the City of Decatur increased 20% over last year’s total property value.  Thirty percent of the increase is due to new property being added to the tax digest.  The remainder is due to revaluation of existing properties.  This increase is consistent with residential sales data for the City of Decatur as well as increases in property values in other cities within DeKalb County.

The assessment notice will include information on how to appeal the County’s determination of property value.  There are specific deadlines associated with the process so please look for more information about the property appraisal process on the County’s website at  We encourage you to review the appeal information and to file an appeal if you believe the value established by the County is not correct.

In response to the increase in property values, the Decatur City Commission is considering a one mill decrease in the millage rate.  The revenue from property taxes supports the City’s budget which funds operations such as sidewalk maintenance and construction, community parks and playgrounds, and police and fire services. The City’s budget for the next year has been presented to the City Commission will be asked to vote on the budget at their meeting on Monday, June 15, 2015.

Public hearings on the millage rate and budget are scheduled for Monday, June 1, 2015 at 7:30 p.m., Monday, June 8, 2015 at 6:00 p.m., and Monday, June 15, 2015 at 7:30 p.m.  All hearings will be held at Decatur City Hall, 509 N. McDonough Street.  The budget is available for review on the City’s website, at Decatur City Hall and the Decatur Library.

Homeowner helps explain property taxes

Decatur resident Hans Utz has written a summary over on Decaturish explaining the major factors that determine your property tax bill in town.  Check it out here!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

2015 millage rate recommended to City Commission

During last week’s City Commission meeting, Assistant City Manager Andrea Arnold presented a proposed budget and City millage rates for 2015.  The millage rate proposal is for a 1 mill reduction.  This would be the result of a half mill reduction in the general fund millage rate and a half mill decrease in the bond millage rate.

However, the proposed tax rate reduction does not necessarily mean that your property taxes will decrease in 2015 compared to 2014.  There are a few other factors that could affect your bill.  1)  The school system has not recommended a school millage rate yet, which affects for about three-fifths of the tax liability for most Decatur property owners.  2)  Your property value this year could increase based on the determination of the DeKalb County property assessor’s office.  Summary reports from DeKalb indicate 15 percent growth in property values in Decatur due to revaluation, and 5 percent new growth.

The projected digest growth means that total property taxes paid to Decatur for tax year 2015 will exceed taxes collected for tax year 2014.  Due to state law, the City is required to advertise the proposed millage rate reduction as a 5 percent tax increase once the overall digest growth is factored in.  For more information, take a look at the tax rate announcement on the City’s webpage here.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

If paying by e-check, please remit by tomorrow

If you are planning to pay your first installment Decatur property tax bill with an electronic check on our website at, I encourage you to make your payment today or tomorrow. Like paper checks, e-checks can take three to five business days to clear the bank. It's not an immediate debit. With Memorial Day coming up on Monday, that will further lengthen the amount of time it could take for your e-check to clear. Our formal payment deadline this installment is June 1, 2015. Our website allows for e-check payments with zero convenience fees, and for credit card payments with convenience fees. We also continue to accept payments by mail or in-person up through the payment due date. If you have any issues with the website or the e-check option, please call 404-370-4100.