Property tax legislation in works, Cagle says

The legislation -- the details of which have not been revealed -- will attempt to ensure “fairness and equity” in the tax system for cities, counties and the taxpayers, Cagle said at a breakfast kicking off the Georgia Municipal Association’s annual “Mayors Day” at the Capitol.

Legislators have said changes to the state’s property tax system are a priority for this session of the General Assembly. One of the goals, they have said, is an easier process for appealing the value that county tax appraisers put on a homeowner’s property.

The effort comes after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that some county tax appraisers are setting values on residential properties higher than what the properties sold for.

An analysis showed assessors cut $4.2 billion in taxable value last year through adjustments to more than 450,000 parcels. But the AJC found that if tax appraisals had been lowered as much as sales dictated, the loss would have been nearly $25 billion.

Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) told the mayors that they both have ruled out raising taxes as a means of solving the state’s current revenue problems.

Both predicted that legislators will have to make tough choices with this year’s budget.

“We have foundational and structural changes that need to occur,” Cagle said, adding that employee furloughs cannot continue to be a major solution.

Ralston said he is open to looking at all ideas, regardless of the political party they come from.

He also said he is committed to making the legislative process more open and transparent, a statement that brought applause from the audience.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed stressed to the mayors and city officials the need to make sure Georgia's population is accurately counted in the upcoming U.S. census.

Because of Georgia's steady growth, an accurate population count could translate into more representation for the state and the city of Atlanta in Washington, Reed said.

It also could mean "billions of dollars to our citizens," said Reed, who suggested a nonpartisan "call to arms" to see that the census count is accurate.

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