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Residents sound off on assessments
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assessment forum

Assessment Forum

There was barely any standing room at the Effingham County administrative complex in Springfield on Thursday evening as residents packed the building to question huge increases in property assessments.

Chief Appraiser Janis Bevill laid out the math behind the assessments and tried to explain the laws governing the work of the tax assessor’s office.

Her office has been hit with complaints since the new assessments were mailed out.

“The main question over and over again was, ‘who gave us the right to change the value,’” she said.

Property value equals the value of the land and the building. In Georgia property is to be assessed at 40 percent of the fair market value. The state allows a range of 36-44.

“There is no assessment bias,” Bevill said.

She explained that her office takes sales prices and divides them into the appraised value. Bevill noted that the cost schedules are working properly, if the ratio falls into that range.

However, the residents were not appeased as one by one they complained of steep increases in their property assessments. They made it clear that they don’t believe their properties were appraised at the fair market value, but rather well above it.

South Effingham resident Tammy Rammoser said her property assessment increased by $101,226 for a three-year-old house that was built for a little more than $176,000.

Violet Drew of Faulkville saw her assessment increase by $37,000.

Another resident explained that his property assessment increased by 42 percent this year because of a shop he built on his property.

One resident’s 22-year-old mobile home on less than an acre of land was appraised at $100,000.

Bevill encouraged those who disagreed with their assessments to appeal. The last day to do so is June 5.

However, various residents noted that the tax assessor’s office is less than responsive when it comes to handling appeals.

Richard Sapp, president of the South Effingham Taxpayer Association, stressed that the real problem is not the tax assessor’s office.

“The assessments are hard to fight — we got to get control of the values and the spending in this county,” Sapp said to applause.

Bevill repeated to the packed room that residents should focus on changing the laws if they are unhappy with their assessment since her office only follows the laws of the state in appraising property.

State Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) admitted the system is broken.

He said he introduced legislation to put a cap on property taxes three years ago. However, Rep. Jon Burns refused to sign the legislation and so it never reached the state Senate.

“Any local legislation has to have the signature of all three of those people (Carter, Burns and Sen. Jack Hill). I cannot do it by myself,” Carter said.

Resident after resident implored the crowd to attend regular county and school board meetings to stay aware of what’s going on and to speak out about increased taxes.

Carter encouraged the residents to be more vigilant as well.

County administrator Ed Williams informed the crowd that the county staff had presented the commissioners with the new budget earlier the same day. It included a millage rollback. The county commissioners stressed that they wanted a rollback from day one of establishing the new budget.

“That’s the one thing they’ve said consistently,” Williams noted.

Bevill mentioned that the board of education, the hospital board and the industrial development authority are working on their budgets now. These budgets will set the millage rate, which will in turn affect the property assessments.

Carter stressed that the assessments and the millage rate are two different things.

Bevill said the job of the tax assessor’s office is to keep property values in Effingham County at fair market value.