Tuesday, April 20, 2010

One property, two freezes

The April edition of the Oakhurst Leaflet included a nice, short piece by Greg Wilkinson entitled, “Didn’t House Bill 233 freeze my property value?”

Mr. Wilkinson wrote, “Most homeowners are probably aware of Georgia HB 233, which was supposed to freeze your property value so the tax assessor can’t raise it while we are in this sour market. On the surface this is true, but there are caveats in the bill that allow the tax assessor to raise your property values should it meet certain criteria.”

Indeed, several exceptions to the statewide freeze bear mentioning. 1) First and foremost is the exception for improvements made to the property. The law says, “Additions or improvements to property…shall be added to the owner’s valuation amount…” 2) Counties may also correct errors in the digest during the freeze. 3) There is also an exception for counties which had begun a “comprehensive county-wide revaluation of all properties in the county” prior to the bill’s passage, (which is why Bibb County, for example, has been in the news here and here for a revaluation that may lead to higher property values in Macon even in the midst of a statewide value freeze.)

As noted in the Leaflet, the statewide freeze in HB 233 expires in 2011.

Just to amplify on that aspect of the article, I’d like to note that HB 595, a piece of local legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2006, authorized a ballot question to let DeKalb residents vote to approve a DeKalb-specific freeze. HB 595’s freeze was approved by 80 percent of voters that fall, but that freeze also expires in 2011.

Because HB 595 is expiring, the state House has approved HB 1320 during the current legislative session. HB 1320 would extend DeKalb County’s freeze “indefinitely.” But the scuttlebutt is that the Senate will probably amend HB 1320 to make it simply another 5 year extension, presumably 2012 to 2016.

Unlike the statewide freeze that puts the burden on county assessors to freeze the value, HB 1320 requires property owners to apply for the freeze. More details and restrictions on DeKalb’s freeze are available on their tax commissioner’s website.

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