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Petition seeks assessors ousters
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A local taxpayers watchdog group has filed a petition to have three members of the Effingham County Board of Assessors removed from office.

The petition was filed Nov. 24 in Effingham County Superior Court. According to state law, “100 freeholders” can ask to have assessors removed from their office. We, the Taxpayers, acting on behalf of 261 signers, filed the petition alleging the members in question were not “properly and impartially discharging their duties” and asked to have members John Roberts, Marcus Kessler and Larry Weddle removed from office.

We, the Taxpayers spokesperson Ruth Lee said this was a step in a process to correct what the group believes are inequities in the setting of property values.

“We attended their meetings, we pled our cases of the many inequities, we asked repeatedly to have the values rolled back to the 2008 values — all to no avail,” she said. “When the inequities are of the magnitude that these 2009 values are and taking the plea to board that has the authority to make the change and that board essentially ignores our efforts, and that board demonstrates that they do not really understand the documents before them, it is time to move to the next step. ‘We, the Taxpayers,’ including the 261 freeholders signed on the petition. We have now taken our plea to the next level, the court.”

Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Chief Judge William E. Woodrum Jr. signed an order scheduling a hearing in the court on Jan. 5.

County commissioners approved a move to add two members to the board of assessors, bringing that body’s total to five.

The petition further alleges that these board members failed to meet their constitutionally required duty “to provide substantially correct or substantially consistent tax assessments on similar properties.” Regulations of the state Department of Revenue further describe the Board’s duties as: “county boards of tax assessors are required by State Constitution and state law to continuously maintain assessments of property that are reasonably uniform and that are based on fair market value as defined.”

The petition further alleges specific malfeasance of this board, instances of the failure of the board to understand and properly review documents presented for their approval and other inequities in the performance of the board’s duties under the law. The petition further alleges that the three defendant members of the assessors board have refused to recognize the provisions in HB 233, which prohibited the increase of any tax values in the 2009 digest.

The next meeting of the assessors board will be Monday at 7 p.m. at the Effingham County administrative complex in Springfield.