Fulton County property value notices were mailed Tuesday

Fulton County Manager Dick Anderson and Dwight Robinson (right), Fulton County’s chief appraiser, share documentations as they listen to a plea to allow Fulton County to collect tax money. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM AJC FILE PHOTO

Fulton County property owners will finally know how much the buildings they own are worth.

Property-value notices were mailed Tuesday, after a delay of several months as the county's tax assessors office tried to confirm that the numbers that would appear on them were correct.

The county did not respond to several requests for information about the average increase in values. But for many homeowners, the value on their notice will have little bearing on what they actually pay in property taxes.

That's because of steps legislators took last year to cap the increase in taxable value for owner-occupied homes after a 2017 jump in property values caused an outcry from residents.

In Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Milton, Mountain Park and Roswell, property value increases for owner-occupied homes are now capped for tax purposes at 3 percent a year or the federal inflation rate. That's also the case for the Fulton County schools.

In Atlanta, taxable values can’t rise more than 2.6 percent each year for owner-occupied homes.

On top of that, homeowners in each of those areas don’t have to start with last year’s value. They can use the lowest-value year of 2016, 2017 or 2018 to set their base rate.

And because Fulton leaders reacted to complaints that values skyrocketed in 2017 by freezing most values at 2016 levels, last year’s rates are substantially higher. The state – which is contesting Fulton’s action – still hasn’t approved the 2017 or 2018 tax digests for the county, so the final values aren’t known.

Additionally, taxpayers in the Atlanta Public Schools will have a larger homestead exemption – $50,000 instead of $30,000. But in the past, the first $30,000 of a home’s assessed value has been exempted, meaning some people with the lowest-valued homes haven’t had to pay Atlanta school taxes at all. This year, all homeowners will have to pay taxes on the first $10,000 of value on their house, before getting the exemption on top of that.

All of those changes took time to process. The state requires property value notices to have an estimate of what property taxes will be, based on the previous year’s tax rates.

Dwight Robinson, the Fulton County chief appraiser, said he wanted to make sure all the changes were programmed correctly before notices were sent. If there were errors, he said, he wanted to catch them before residents got their notices and any confusion was created. The county originally planned to send out notices in April.

Bob Ellis, a county commissioner, contended that the process should have been done far earlier. He said in an email to constituents that he lacked confidence in the process, and said he was concerned that there would be new issues in 2019.

The county remains mired in a legal battle with the state regarding its decision to freeze values in 2017.

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