Friday, March 12, 2010

Senate passes property assessment bill

The state Senate passed SB 346 yesterday by a 54-0 vote.

Sen. Ronald Ramsey (D), who represents a portion of DeKalb County, told the Atlanta Business Chronicle that “This bill is taxpayer relief. It will restore people’s faith in government.”

The bill would set the sale price of a home as the fair market value for tax purposes for one year following the sale. The legislation would also require counties to mail out assessment notices annually, which would give property owners the chance to challenge their assessments, and would extend the window to appeal to 45 days.

Here are more details from the Macon Telegraph:
ATLANTA — The state Senate approved a major overhaul to Georgia’s property tax system Thursday, continuing a multi-year effort to hold down the taxes local governments depend on and homeowners seem to hate.

Senate Bill 346, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, passed unanimously and moves now to the House of Representatives, where similar reforms also are popular. Rogers’ bill includes dozens of changes, but the idea behind them is to keep property assessments from ballooning.

Those assessments — basically an estimation of a home or other property’s value — are used in conjunction with local millage rates to figure annual tax bills. But as the mortgage crisis has forced home values down, assessments haven’t kept pace, leaving many people feeling their property taxes are unfairly high. Rogers’ bill requires that assessment notices be sent to property owners every year. It extends the appeals process from 30 to 45 days and requires that all comparable sales, including bank sales and foreclosures, must be applied when officials set an assessed value.

It also locks in a home’s assessed value for one year after it sells.

Other property tax legislation is moving forward in the House, aimed at capping the annual increase in a home’s tax value, regardless of what the housing market does. House Resolution 1 and House Bill 517, both of which deal with such caps, passed the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday.

Efforts to cap assessment growth failed last year, but House Republicans are pushing the matter again. Rogers’ reforms seem to have wider appeal. For example, Democrats who blocked House Resolution 1 last year have said they won’t fight Rogers’ bill.

The bill is expected to receive bipartisan support in the state House.

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