The value of existing real estate in Bulloch County as assessed for taxes increased roughly 13% from Jan. 1, 2022 to Jan. 1, 2023, reports Chief Tax Appraiser Ronny Newton. This follows a roughly 9% inflationary increase, part of which was the highest inflation in home values in memory, the previous year.
In an interview last week, Newton cited 18% as this year’s overall increase in the value of the county’s tax digest – which includes agricultural, commercial and industrial property as well as homes – and 18% also as the approximate increase in just the residential category. A follow-up question was whether this referred just to inflation in values of existing property or if it included “real growth,” from new construction, renovations and other improvements during the year.
“Out of the 18 percent increase, 5 percent is real; 13 percent is inflationary,” he said in a phone message Monday.
Last year at this time, then-Chief Appraiser John Scott estimated that the value of taxable property in Bulloch County – prior to taxpayer appeals – had increased a little more than 13% from Jan. 1, 2021 to Jan. 1, 2022. But he noted that home valuations had climbed about 19%.
That, Scott said, was the largest increase he had ever seen, during a career in tax appraisal that extended back 39 years. The 2021-2022 overall 13% digest increase had included about 9% inflation and 4% real growth, he said in early June of last year.
When Scott retired this April, Newton, who was previously deputy chief appraiser and has 31 years of experience in the Bulloch County Board of Tax Assessors office, became the county’s chief appraiser.
The Board of Assessors staff mailed out around 35,000 “real and personal property” assessment notices May 19. From that date, taxpayers have 45 days, or until July 3, to file appeals of the assigned values with the assessors’ office.
As for the 13% inflation, Newton said, “We got some up a little bit less, some a little more, it just depends on the area and the sales in that area. Bulloch County has not slowed down with sales.”
Like the demand for homes and other real estate, the inflation in appraised values varies across the more than 220 Bulloch County neighborhoods delineated by the tax assessors. In the more distant past, widespread property re-evaluations were done only every two or three years, “but the last few years we do a re-evaluation every year on every piece of property,” Newton said. “Not every piece of property is looked at physically, but all are looked at statistically.”
State-added tax break
For many residents who own their own homes, a state-funded additional homestead exemption will offset the tax increase resulting from value inflation, Newton notes. That’s assuming that the elected county Board of Commissioners and Board of Education, or the city councils in the case of city taxes, either roll back their millage rates to avoid triggering tax increase notices, leave the rates unchanged or at least don’t raise them by so much as to cancel out the savings.
“There’s one good thing this year, that we do get the state’s homestead tax credit relief from the state of Georgia,” Newton said.
This is not the same thing as the regular homestead exemptions, which are not state-funded. Those local exemptions are shown in estimates of taxes included on the assessment notices, which by the way, use last year’s millage rates and do not predict the current year’s rates.
But not shown on those notices, the new, one-time state-funded exemption is the means to the “refund” in property taxes promised by Gov. Brian Kemp and supported by the Legislature with a $950 million appropriation. The money will go to the counties and cities, which in turn provide an $18,000 reduction in the assessed value of owner-occupied homes.
Because homes in Georgia are assessed for taxes at 40% of market value, the $18,000 reduction in assessed value amounts to an exemption of $45,000 of a home’s market value as determined by the county appraisers.
The cash value of this exemption in terms of taxes varies with the combined city and county millage rates in each tax district. Based on last year’s rates, in Statesboro it will amount to about $485; in Brooklet, about $511; in Portal, about $510; in Register, about $495; in most of Bulloch County’s unincorporated area, about $388; and the “fire district” outside Statesboro’s city limits but served by its Fire Department, about $394, Newton said.
“The majority of them, if the millage rate stays the same as this year, their taxes will actually be lower than they were last year,” he said.
Meanwhile, qualifying homeowners who have signed up will still benefit from the usual exemptions, which are available every year. The standard exemption removes from taxation the first $2,000 of the assessed value of owner-occupied homes for most homeowners who apply. For senior homeowners within certain income limits, those age 65 and up qualify to exempt $4,000 of the assessed value of their home from county government tax, and from age 62 and up, $10,000 assessed value from school district tax.
But the more generous, $18,000 state-funded exemption for all owner-inhabited homesteads is described by the Georgia Department of Revenue on its website as a “one-time Property Tax Relief Grant.” It was included in the state’s amended fiscal year 2023 budget, with no certainty that it will be repeated next year.
“Now, if we don’t get this next year, we don’t know what’s going to happen,” Newton added.
Like the regular homestead exemptions, the special exemption does not apply to rented homes or other kinds of property.
For property owners considering an appeal of their new assessment, a first step is to call or go by the assessors’ office to talk to staff members. They can provide a sheet of “comps,” or comparable properties and their values, in the particular neighborhood or subdivision.
“Really we’re getting a lot of questions, and just explaining stuff and showing the data for what properties actually sell for,” Newton said last week. “A lot of people in these subdivisions don’t really know what properties in their subdivisions are selling for.
“So we don’t have really a lot of appeals; we’ve just been answering a lot of questions.”
The office’s website, www.qpublic.net/ga/bulloch, lists an “Appeals” portal in the top menu. This leads to a second page that includes a link to a Georgia Department of Revenue site with information on filing a property tax appeal and the Appeal of Assessment Form used by all Georgia counties.
Adjustments can be made by the Board of Assessors, whose three members are appointed for six-year terms by the Bulloch County commissioners. Any appeals not satisfied by the assessors and staff are forwarded to the Board of Equalization, with three different members appointed by a local grand jury.
The assessment notices are not tax bills. After the county commissioners, school board and city councils set their millage rates this summer, the elected county tax commissioner and the cities will send out tax bills, usually in early October with a December due date.