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County weighing assessors policies
Commissioners table how to name new members
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Effingham County commissioners are continuing to discuss a policy on changing the makeup of the board of assessors.

Commissioners have approved expanding the membership from its current three to five. They also previously gave the go-ahead for a performance review of the board of assessors.

Still under consideration is how to structure the new board — such as selecting a member from each of the county commission districts — and what background the new members should have.

“If we have two spots and five candidates, how do we go about processing to find two out of those five,” said commission Chairman Dusty Zeigler. “Should it be a unanimous decision, and if you go about removing a member, should that be by unanimous decision?”

County attorney Eric Gotwalt said commissioners may want to consider selecting members based on the type of property they own — commercial, residential or industrial — rather than from the five districts since the district boundaries may change in 2012.

While several boards are chosen by commission district — with each corresponding commissioner selecting a member — the board of assessors is voted on by the entire commission.

The assessors board is scheduled to meet tonight at 7 and will discuss the notification of the state Department of Revenue’s performance review. Some residents are still calling on the commissioners to throw out the 2009 tax digest and start all over again.

The tax digest has yet to be forwarded to the state Department of Revenue for its approval.

“I am not willing to sit back and be quiet no more,” said Michael Stephens. “From the federal level, we’re being taxed right out of our property. We’re being taxed to the point where I can’t afford to live in Effingham County.”

Stephens said the company hired by the assessors department to conduct property evaluations also had been hired by Laurens County, and that county eventually threw out its 2009 tax digest.

“I feel this one needs to be thrown out and start over,” he said. “We’ll have three years to get the values where they need to be.”

Stephens also asked the commissioners to remove the current assessors and name new ones.

“This is my opinion,” he said. “I ain’t representing anybody but me, myself and I. I’m taxed out, folks. I think you’ve got a lot of bias in the assessors’ office.”

Ruth Lee also complained about what she said is a lack of action by the assessors office.

“You have a board that has been fairly inactive,” she said. “I think it’s time you take the action to try to place some people on that board who will do the business of the day. Taxpayers of Effingham County are being held hostage by the current board of assessors because they take no action. That is not an acceptable situation.”

Zeigler said he wants the county commissioners to get the policy for naming new assessors right.

“Obviously, whatever we’ve done in the past is now causing some concern,” he said. “If there are some things we need to add to the policy and amend this policy, now is the time to do it before we start naming people.”