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Posted: May 22, 2011 12:30 a.m.

Newton property values decline again

All taxpayers have the option to appeal assessment this year

Property tax assessments were sent out May 10, and the results in Newton County were similar to the past two years as 85 to 90 percent of all parcels declined in value.

This was the first year that local governments had to send property tax assessments to every taxpayer regardless of whether that person's property value had changed, and also the first year the governments had to provide an estimated property tax amount.

In addition, each of Newton's 43,214 taxpayers can appeal their assessment, regardless of whether it changed or whether they filed a tax return. They have 45 days from when they received their assessment to file an appeal. For most taxpayers that would be June 23.

As of Tuesday, Knight said only a handful of appeals had been filed.

"We took the same approach as always by studying each market area and adjusting each by its own trends and market activity. While almost every market area is down, some are worse than others," Knight said in an email. Newton County has revalued every property every year, unlike many counties.

One of the biggest changes this year is that every business and industry also received a tax assessment. Normally, a business will receive an assessment every three to four years, so more are likely to appeal this year.

"My deputy chief and I worked hard during the return process of gathering pertinent information so we could send out industrial notices with what we believe are true values based on facts, not speculation," Knight said, hoping his staff's efforts will mitigate appeals.

Appeals make life harder for the Newton County Board of Commissioners, because those multi-million assessment appeals will be in limbo as the board attempts to prepare a budget.

The county is currently predicting the tax digest will decline 10 percent to $2.12 billion, but the official numbers won't be available until closer to July 1. Much of the decline is from dropping residential values; 81 percent of all home sales in Newton County in 2010 involved banks, compared to only 60 percent in Walton County and 39 percent in Rockdale County, Knight said previously.

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