Across the city last week, thousands of Atlantans opened their mailboxes to unwelcome news – surprisingly higher tax bills from Fulton County. Homeowners found their assessments increase in the double digits; some as much as 50 percent.
The Atlanta City Council passed a resolution Monday asking the county to delay the 2017 tax assessment digest. Councilmembers also requested that Fulton County’s Chief Assessor meet with the City’s Finance and Executive Committee to answer questions about how the recent assessments were formulated.
After the vote, Council President Ceasar Mitchell said, “The excuse we’ve heard from Fulton County is that they haven’t done their jobs in years, so this is them playing catch-up. These changes to the tax digest are, frankly, indigestible. Asking homeowners to stomach these increases because Fulton County hasn’t done their job is unacceptable.”
This year’s assessments reflect significant valuation increases in many portions of the County, reflecting a strong real estate market and in line with market trends. Under Georgia law, values are required to be within 90-110 percent of market value. Overall, 2017 valuations indicate a real estate market with values similar to those before the 2008 recession.
The median change for residential parcels across Fulton County is approximately 13 percent. By comparison, Cobb County’s 2017 valuation, which included review of 50 percent of residential properties, saw a median increase of 16 percent. Gwinnett County updated valuation for 60 percent of residential properties, and saw a median increase of 12 percent.
Chief Appraiser Dwight Robinson noted, “We have undergone a thorough process to ensure that we are in alignment with best practices in property valuation. This year’s valuations are consistent with strong sales in neighborhoods located throughout Fulton County.”
According to Robinson, a 2016 residential review had not taken place.
Fulton County officials said assessments were issued to more than 320,000 properties.
“This year’s wave of assessments has prompted a lot of questions and concerns,” said Councilman Howard Shook, who Chairs the Finance Committee and co-wrote the resolution. “Councilmembers need a thorough understanding of what practices and processes created these increases.”
Only some of the data used in determining value is available on the Tax Assessor’s website, and not all of what is published is comprehensible to homeowners.
Property owners who wish to appeal must do so within 45 days of receiving their assessment or by July 10 in person, online or by mail. As well, Fulton County offers numerous property tax relief measures. Significantly, owner-occupied residential properties with a homestead exemption in place will benefit from the Consumer Price Index (CPI) Homestead Freeze. This offsets assessment increases to the CPI or 3 percent, whichever is less. Fulton County also has a basic homestead exemption of $30,000, which is among the highest in the metro area.