Letter: Requirement for a millage rollback for taxpayers

I read with interest the article by Tyler Jones, entitled “County considers millage.” The title on my letter is more accurate. The county commissioners placed a required notice in the sports section of this paper on Memorial Day informing the public of a “tax increase” on which the Commissioners would vote on June 16, 2015.

It is, in fact, a tax increase if they choose not to “roll back” the millage rate. The state of Georgia requires that the notice must state that it is a tax increase because every property owner will receive a tax increase if the Board of Commissioners chooses to leave the millage rate as it is currently.

Three public hearings are required by the state to discuss the requirement to roll back the millage rate in light of the current net tax digest.

The County Commission gives the impression to the public that in spite of the notice which clearly is said to be a “tax increase” they have nothing to do with the tax increase. That is a flat out lie. If they do not role back the millage rate, it is a tax increase.

Two years ago Troup County, lead by County Manager Tod Tentler, held various meetings regarding the convenience centers. There were special panels of selected people to discuss the issue.

The end result was a tax increase of $1.4 million a year by raising the millage rate. That was sold to the tax payers by indicating that the money would be used to upgrade the centers and put a much needed new roof on the county jail.

One year of that tax is enough to cover those expenditures but oh no, it was a bait and switch double cross. A millage increase is a tax increase that goes on forever regardless of the net tax digest if the commissioners do not roll it back.

I was told by the Tax Assessors Office that last year was “a very good year” in Troup County. The tax digest was up. It should have been with the millage increase from the previous year as well as the increased values assessed on our residential properties.

The tax digest is the total of all revenues from assessed taxable property in Troup County. If this exceeds the amount needed to fund the government, then a roll back is required, because the government has collected more money than what is necessary.

One year of the additional millage rate was enough to cover what they said was needed for the convenience center upgrades, etc. However, when asked what the additional money will be used for, the answer from Tod Tentler was “capital expenditures.” In other words, they can spend it on anything they choose to spend it on rather than refunding back to the tax payers.

In the meantime, the reason the tax digest is also up is because the Tax Assessors Office re-evaluates the taxable properties in the county adding to the taxable value of the properties, which in turn increases the digest when people pay their assessed taxes. I was told that the real estate market in Troup County was rebounding therefore property values were going up, therefore new and higher assessments were necessary on all properties across the board. I’m sure that when the real estate market was really down, there were few who realized any lower assessments.

What is interesting about this FY15 year, is that some properties have been assessed at low percentages and others at much higher percentages and the properties are not being assessed by someone actually going out to the properties to see if there are improvements, or additions, etc. That is required every three years but not this year, I was told.

It appears to be just speculation, for in my investigation, and from what I understand, no one has had an appraiser actually come look at their property this year. That did happen in 2012 when there were over 6,000 appeals for property appraisals.

I asked about the criteria used for higher evaluations currently. I was told that it was generally because properties are selling for more than current values assessed. I have found that in order for a higher assessment, the sale of a property much be a comparable property not just any random home sale in general.

For example, a house in the rural area, built in 1944, sitting on bricks, cannot be compared to a house on Country Club Road or a home in the Waterford Subdivision. As a result, I’m sure many will have reason to appeal these 2015 assessments to allow for some relief.

The point of this letter is to reveal the disingenuous way the commissioners and the County Manager Tod Tentler have handled the questions posed by those who have expressed their concerns when government is taking more and more from those trying to make ends meet.

The article on the front page of Wednesday’s paper says nothing to inform the tax payer about the purpose of the hearings, which are to “roll back” the millage in order to give relief to property owners whose property has been assessed at higher and higher values year after year, which has caused the total tax digest to be higher which requires a roll back or three public hearings to provide justification for the county keeping the millage as it is.

The Board of Commissioners have the option to help the property owners in Troup County who have seen their valuations rise year after year by reducing the millage rate.

The final hearing is June 16, 2015, at 9 a.m. at the Troup County Government Center.

Ellen Gilmore

West Point