Fulton property tax values could jump 28 percent, board says

Dwight Robinson, chef appraiser, speaks before Fulton County residents during  town hall meeting in this June 2017 file photo.

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Dwight Robinson, chef appraiser, speaks before Fulton County residents during town hall meeting in this June 2017 file photo.

The Fulton County Board of Assessors revealed preliminary figures for 2018 property tax assessments on April 26, and simply put, the value of property in the county has gone up, a lot.

The estimated median county-wide increase for property values in 2018 is 28 percent, meaning about half of the homeowners in Fulton County could see their values rise to at least this level, officials said.

And for folks who live in Atlanta, that number is going to be higher, according to the preliminary figures. The median increase in property values for Atlanta homeowners is 33 percent, and about a third of Atlantans could see an increase of 50 percent in their property values, the board said.

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"It's huge, but we're making up for 10 years of board members and staff that just didn't do their job," said RJ Morris, a member of the board of assessors. "The bottom line is (former Fulton County Chief Appraiser David Fitzgibbon) just wasn't doing his job."

The numbers released on April 26 are preliminary values and could be altered before assessment notices are mailed out on May 22. The board will review and approve the assessments before then. Also on May 22, homeowners will be able to access their assessments online and look at comparable homes.

“We’re painting with, not a scalpel, but a broad brush,” said the county’s chief appraiser Dwight Robinson. “I’m 100 percent sure that on some of these parcels there are errors.”

These increases are based on 2016 home values, because values in 2017 were frozen by former Fulton County Chairman John Eaves.

Robinson said that the push now is for the board of assessors to inform homeowners on what to expect in their assessment and how to appeal them before they go out next month.

“We’re trying to give them as much as we can to make them understand that our job is to appraise the property properly and not to determine how much taxes they’re going to pay,” Robinson said. “Exemptions impact how much taxes you pay and the millage rate impacts how much taxes you pay, and neither of those are controlled by the board of assessors.”

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While assessment values —and in turn, taxes — are likely to skyrocket this year, voters will have a chance to change that for 2019.

Changes to laws in Atlanta and cities in north Fulton County are set to be voted on in November. The provisions would limit assessed values from jumping at astronomical rates. In Alpharetta, Mountain Park, Milton, Johns Creek and Roswell, the law wouldn't allow assessed values to increase by more than 3 percent each year. In Atlanta, if the law passes, assessments would be limited to increasing by just 2.6 percent. The cap doesn't include Atlanta's public school system.

Rep. Beth Baskin, R-Atlanta is the sponsor of HB 820 which would lock in that maximum assessment rate for Atlanta homeowners.

“I don’t doubt that our values have gone up,” said Baskin, who was at the April 26 board meeting. “It’s a very prosperous time and our properties are increasing in value, but people need predictable, stable property taxes. They can’t afford for their taxes to go up 33 percent. So, (the bill) is a way to protect homeowners.”

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Morris, a member of the assesors board, had a message to folks who might experience sticker shock when they receive their 2018 property value assessments.

“We’re like the sheriff. All we’re doing is enforcing the laws ... if you’re upset with the laws, then call the governor and call your state legislator,” he said. “If the sales in your neighborhood go up 100 percent then we have no choice but to go in there and raise your values accordingly.

“And I’m sorry, but I’m going to use a blunt word: you’re stupid if you don’t understand that… You’re complaining to the wrong people.”

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Fulton County homeowners to pay more property tax