Is Effingham County a victim of its own success?
The recent assessment notices have sent property owners through the roof as they see the value of their land jump. A higher assessment doesn’t automatically mean a higher property tax bill this fall —the county commissioners rolled back their millage to accommodate the assessed growth in the digest — but it generally follows suit.
So why did the assessments spike so much? Is there something wrong with the way they are done?
The method in determining fair market values for property goes by some strict state guidelines. That’s not to say there couldn’t be errors in individual assessments or that there is a madness to the state’s method.
But the simplest explanation is that values are going up because the land here is desirable. People want to move to Effingham County for a number of reasons, from the reputation of the schools to the relatively quiet pace. The county’s population has boomed in less than a generation.
By all indications, more people will looking at putting down roots in Effingham in the next few years, whether they are driven here as the Coastal Empire economy explodes, thanks to the booming port of Savannah and Gulfstream’s continued success, or whether they are tired of the weather in northern climes and don’t wish to put up with Florida’s or Hilton Head’s or Savannah’s congestion.
That individual property owners are toting the burden of supporting local governments. The key is to find a way to lighten their load by reducing the millages by which their land is taxed. That means finding enough commercial and retail investment to not only pump more sales tax dollars into the revenue stream but also more commercial property tax into government coffers.
However, that might take some time, though Effingham County is an attractive area for business investments. The rooftops they go after are already here, and more are coming, and the level of per capita income also is to their liking. The more money people make, the more they are likely to have to spend.
In the meantime, it’s incumbent upon the governments that levy taxes to be prudent with their spending and their millages so they don’t break the backs of the property owners.