End of moratorium allows property assessments to rise

Tens of thousands of metro Atlanta homeowners got a surprise this spring as county assessors raised home values used to set property taxes at a time when the real estate market remains in the doldrums.

For the first time since 2008, state law allowed assessors to raise tax values if they believed rising sales prices justified it. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis found that while assessors cut far more home values than they raised this year, they took advantage of the change in state law to raise values in some neighborhoods, especially in affluent areas. That likely will mean higher property taxes this year for those residents.

The newspaper analyzed the 2012 county tax values of more than one million residential properties in five metro counties. It found the five counties combined raised the values of 7 percent of residential properties this year, often in affluent areas. But some counties raised more than others: The increases ranged from 1.3 percent of residential properties in Gwinnett County to 18 percent in DeKalb.

Assessors say they cut far more values than they raised and say homeowners can appeal if they believe their value is incorrect. They say the expiration of the moratorium on raising values has allowed them to accurately appraise properties that have gained in value but have not changed on the tax rolls for years.

Critics doubt many of this year’s assessment increases are justified. They say assessors are quick to raise values but slow to cut them, even in the worst real estate slump since the Great Depression.

In Friday's newspaper, the AJC looks at how home value hikes bewilder property owners. It’s a story you’ll only get by picking up a copy of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution or logging on to the paper’s iPad app. Subscribe today.

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