Opinion: Legislators can prevent another property-tax meltdown

Dozens of property owners attended a June 15 meeting at which the Fulton Board of Assessors considered whether to uphold the current property assessments. (AJC Photo / Arielle Kass)

A burgeoning property-tax revolt in Fulton County ended with the county’s quick surrender. That doesn’t mean the issue is over, for Georgia’s largest county or the state as a whole.

Fulton homeowners were outraged in May when new assessments started showing up in their mailboxes. Half of homeowners saw increases of at least 20 percent, almost a quarter of them at least 50 percent. (A personal note: Mine rose by 147 percent.) After the Board of Assessors refused to throw out the new tax digest, the county commissioners cited an obscure state law in freezing the digest at its 2016 level.

That came as a relief to many of us, albeit a temporary one. This year’s soaring assessments represent a systemic problem for a tax that wasn’t built for the kind of real-estate market that has developed in many parts of metro Atlanta and perhaps other Georgia cities.

Only the property tax raises your tax burden because of financial decisions others made (your neighbors paying more for their homes) and your unrealized financial gains (you don’t pay capital gains tax on a stock until you sell it). It might also be the biggest part of your non-federal tax burden, depending on your home’s value relative to your income.

All of that might be tolerable if the market rises slowly and steadily. But in red-hot markets, double-digit annual increases can pile up quickly. A particularly pernicious cycle exists in the continuing wake of the Great Recession: The supply of homes remains abnormally tight, sending prices higher than they’d otherwise go, leading to a disproportionate impact on county assessments.

Without a brake on homeowners’ tax bills — and no millage-rate rollback will keep up with assessments rising by 50 percent or more — counties could drive homeowners to sell solely to avoid an unaffordable tax bill. Conservatives, having long warned against letting government policies drive decisions in the marketplace, should want to prevent that. So should liberals who rightly worry about the impact of gentrification on housing affordability.

Faced with soaring tax bills, homeowners naturally lose faith in the system. “They intuitively realize, I didn’t consume more (public) services,” says Jan Jones, a Milton Republican and the second-ranking member of the state House. “When I bought this house, I agreed I would pay taxes on that amount, and could afford them, and that was a reasonable bargain for the services I received.”

But a spike in assessments like the one in Fulton this year, she says, is “frightening for retirees on a fixed income, and it’s frightening for young families.”

Jones says she is working on legislation to address the problem, perhaps by adjusting homestead exemptions to rise in proportion to increases in assessments until houses are re-sold. Another option is to cap the assessment increase that can be levied in a single year.

Whether that is done only for Fulton or for the whole state remains to be seen. “I’ll be looking statewide, but it’ll be bottom-up,” depending on what she hears from other legislators, Jones says. “I want to be thoughtful about any statewide changes that probably would require a constitutional amendment. The good news is (an amendment) would only pass the Legislature if it was broadly supported, which would be indicative of pervasive problems and a pervasive lack of confidence in the (assessors’) results.”

The lack of confidence is real enough in Fulton, at least. Expect this to be an issue under the Gold Dome come January.

Reader Comments 0

135 comments
Jamesr1991
Jamesr1991

amazing how stupid people are. trump supporters are fine with everything he does wrong cause he's not President Barack Obama.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

This meme that if Trump had nothing to hide he shouldn't take issue with the investigation omits some important facts. These investigations can go on for several years and take on a life of their own getting into areas beyond the intended scope. All this Russia, Russia, Russia thing is feeding the Democrats false narrative through the MSM's tabloid reporting. When Sessions recused himself Rosenstein, took it upon himself to hire Mueller, who only days before actually interviewed with Trump for taking Comey's job. This has been a major distraction for a new administration and is damaging the country by making the country appear stupid in the eyes of the world and that's to Putin's benefit.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

DerekGator,

Is absolutely correct. This obsession with Trump's tax return is stupid because the IRS has them and you can bet they've been examined.

skruorangeclown
skruorangeclown

Agree with Kyle that a freeze or annual percentage  cap on tax rate increase. after purchase makes sense  unless you are trying to tax folks out of the neighborhood. Pay the difference when house sells or forgiven at death. Too sensible for bozos under gold dome.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@skruorangeclown

I don't understand why the state has to get involved.

If they involve themselves with Fulton County it opens the flood gates for owners in every county to sue because their county does not do something Fulton does that they favor.

It's Fulton County, its a Fulton County issue.

End. Full Stop.

DerekGator
DerekGator

Kyle, there is an easy solution, just roll back the millage rates.  If the value of the tax digest goes up 20%, you should expect to see the millage rate go down by 16 - 18%, allowing for a 2-4% increase in tax receipts.  When you start monkeying around with homestead exemptions based on when you purchased your property, one person will be paying $3,000 in property taxes and his next door neighbor with a similar house paying $8,000 just because he bought a few years later.  Not fair, they both drive on the same roads and send their kids to the same school.   Also, there needs to be a minimum tax due, a lot of lower priced properties after their Homestead Exemption end up paying only a few hundred dollars per year in property taxes, while frequently consuming way more services than the guy paying $10,000/year. 

Caius
Caius

1. What is Trump hiding?  Like any wounded animal that has been cornered he is slashing out at any one who approaches. From day one he has said no on his federal tax returns. What is in the tax returns? He is about to fire "the best AG ever" because he cannot fire the investigators who he fears will uncover his tax returns.

Trump has turned from a potentially top 10 president to become a pathetic prisoner in a jail he built around himself. He snarls out at others but every single problem he has, or imagines he has, has been the result of his own doing.

And it is all live in Twitter.

2. Please stop on all the impeachment talk. We have talked on that with Johnson, Nixon, Clinton (actually did impeach there), Bush and Obama.  Unless you have a guaranteed 67 votes for removable in the Senate impeachment is a waste of time and money.  Talk about the weather if you have nothing better to talk about.


breckenridge
breckenridge

@Caius 

Well yes.  Trump insists he's done nothing wrong and that the Russia investigation is a witch hunt.  If that is the case then he should want the Mueller investigation to run its course and clear him of any wrongdoing.

DerekGator
DerekGator

@Caius The tax returns are not hidden, there is nothing to uncover, he just doesn't want to share them with the media.  The IRS has his tax returns and the FBI have probably examined every line over the last 25 years. 

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@DerekGator @Caius

Election law does not require tax returns but instead financial disclosure.  Trump complied with the disclosure.

The Left's obsession with tax returns cannot be justified and as someone previously posted most of the LibProgs would not understand them if viewed.

It's a canard.

breckenridge
breckenridge

@JohnnyReb @DerekGator @Caius 

You may be satisfied with Trump's financial disclosure to date but Robert Mueller is not.  That's why he has issued  subpoenas for Trump's bank records and tax returns.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

The divide between the new and old Dims is starting to show as MSNBC guest host Chris Jansing complained of the diversity on display as Chuckie and Nancy announced their new slogan.

A rip-off from Papa John's Pizza slogan, the Dim attempt has produced a new pizza (actually just a box) called Same Pelosi.

Republicans should look forward to the old Dim guard retiring because the ones waiting to take over may just finish off the party with their socialism. 

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

@JohnnyReb

MSNBC?  LOL.  Excuse me for a second while I just guffaw...

.

.

.

.

... ah, much better.  

Less fake news, Lil Johnny!

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@Eye wonder @JohnnyReb

Do try to keep up one eye.

MSNBC took the one week ratings away from FOX News.

The point being, many of your misled political friends are tuning in to MSNBC.

xebinas
xebinas

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JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

The Dims have overplayed the Russia collusion lie and even their own grow tired of it.  So, they are rolling out a new slogan and promise.

Their aim is trained on middle class whites.

Yep, the same group they have disparaged, belittled and name-called while telling them the nation will be better once their race is minimized. 

breckenridge
breckenridge

The half sister makes 75 what every hour? 75 cents? 75 pesos? 75 kopeks?


You'll have to be more specific.

fowi
fowi

 our roomate's half sister makes 75 every hour on the internet.. she has been unemployed for 11 months, the previous month her check was 16212 only working on the internet three hours each day, check out this site (っ◔◡◔)っ http://www.online61.com



AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

The democrats, who can't get elected to political office, are like the teenage boy who can't get a date. The teenage boy seeks relief in the pages of playboy magazine while the democrats turn to the Washington Post.

You know what I mean? 😂

walivevo
walivevo

my roomate's sister-in-law gets 79 every hour from home. she's been fired from a job for 2 months. last month her paycheck was 19054 just working on the internet for four hours a day... look at      http://tinyurl.com/online-job-tipes381

breckenridge
breckenridge

Robert Mueller was wounded in battle while serving his country in Vietnam.


Donald Trump was wounded when he bumped his head on the bed he was hiding under during the Vietnam War.

quickdigits
quickdigits

My property tax in Cobb County went up by 50%!! We don't even Have Central Heat and Air in our house, for God's Sake!!

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

What investigation porn will the mueller crew illegally disclose tomorrow and will it make the democracks sticky all over again?

Well, duh!

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

I guess when you have no evidence, have no crimes and have no decency, war medals are your fallback position.

breckenridge
breckenridge

@AndyManUSA#45 


And exactly how is it that you know Mueller has no evidence?  Perhaps he does. Perhaps he does not.
 

You're just talking out of your arse as usual.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

We already have evidence of obama and hillary colluding, why does that not matter, vermin?

breckenridge
breckenridge

Robert Mueller received an award for valor and heroism while serving in Vietnam.


Donald Trump his under his bed during the Vietnam War.



Next.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

Tell maggot mueller to examine Ivanka's bank records too, that way when she gets elected in 2024, he'll be ahead of the game.

That's tonight's investigation porn for sticky little democracks.

breckenridge
breckenridge

Trump does not Mueller to get a hold of his tax returns.  Since the head of the IRS reports to Trump that could be a challenge for Mueller. Perhaps Trump cheated on his taxes? Big deal. Everybody cheats on their taxes.


Mueller has also subpoenaed Trump's bank records. The banks have no choice but to comply.  Mueller's team will be looking for transactions between Trump corporations and Russian shell companies.  Those may be more relevant than the tax returns anyway.

quickdigits
quickdigits

@breckenridge Trump Does Not WHAT Meuller to get a hold of his tax returns?? You left Out A Word......Grrrrrrr....

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

I wonder how many years in prison redirecting national security assets for political purposes carries these days?

Or would it be death?

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

Ted Cruz is an excellent choice for AG. I'll bet he even understands that collusion is not crime. He wouldn't have to recuse himself from the hillary/obama prosecutions either.

Nice!

Starik
Starik

@AndyManUSA#45  Cruz isn't what we need. A good, experienced prosecutor would be best. 

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

This ain't about you, vermin. Shouldn't have started the fire.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

I am not the one destroying my own country because I lost an election and can't get over it.

Little child.

bu22
bu22

@Starik @DavidATL45 @AndyManUSA#45  Bill Clinton is an awful human being.  People who know him usually like him.  Ted's problem is that he thinks being disliked is a virtue.  Bill knows that being likable allows him to rape and pillage and get away with it.  Being likable is not necessarily a sign of virtue.