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Property appeals could be lengthy process
Individual hearings may be quick, but it could take months for all of them
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The appeals process for Effingham County’s property reassessments could be lengthy and may not be cheap, either.

Already, hearings are being scheduled for nearly six months in advance and Chief Appraiser Janis Bevill asked county commissioners this week for help in hiring part-time workers to deal with the 2,745 appeals on file with the tax assessors office. The normal amount of appeals a year is from 200 to 250 a year, according to Bevill.

The appeals will be heard by the board of equalization and the assessors office expects to turn the list of appeals over to the equalization board Monday afternoon. Board of equalization members will see if there is a reason to disqualify themselves from hearing a particular appeal.

Every property owner who has appealed is being scheduled for a hearing. Letters notifying property owners of their hearing dates likely will be sent out beginning Oct. 22. Hearings cannot take place for 20 days once they are notified and must be conducted within 30 days once they get notice, giving the board a 10-day window.

“It’s a scheduling nightmare,” Bevill said. “We’re onto week 26 on the schedule. It may take about six to seven months. Hopefully it will be shorter than that.”

There are about 24,000 parcels in the county and some people have from 25 to 30 parcels they are appealing, Bevill said. Those who drop their appeal have to notify the board of equalization in writing of their decision to do so.

Still, that leaves more than 2,700 certified letters to send out and possibly 2,700 cases to file, all which must be done by the assessors office.

“There’s a lot of paperwork,” Bevill said. “The paperwork is the thing that’s overwhelming. The board of equalization is like a jury. They turn all the hearing files back over to us. It’s up to us to keep everything up and going.

Bevill has a budget of $10,000 to conduct the appeals and process the paperwork. She needs $91,000 for adequate staffing.

“It is difficult to hire the folks who have the skills we need to compete with the private businesses and the surrounding counties,” she said.

The appeals on the reassessments also put a strain on her office’s resources, the current personnel losses not withstanding. Her office is losing a worker to Bryan County for a salary increase of more than $4 an hour.

“It’s taking away from my staff looking into the 2008 digest,” Bevill said. “It’s like a domino effect.”

She said tax bills are due Nov. 15, whether an appeal on a parcel has been heard or not, and her office must notify those who have land in conservation use if they wish to keep it as such by Oct. 1.