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Assessments sent out, moratorium lifted
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Rockdale County property owners will see their assessed values mostly stay the same or decrease and will have until June 14 to appeal those values.

About 36,265 notices went out in the mail at the beginning of the month, said Tax Assessor Lamar Sims. These include homes, rural land and commercial properties.

Of the assessments sent out, about 42 percent saw a reduction in value, 7 percent increased in value, and the remaining 51 percent stayed about the same.

This is the first year after a three-year state moratorium on value increases that assessed property values can increase.

Of the assessments that increased in value, Sims said, "A lot of those will be new structures, meaning maybe a new house, new commercial building, or alteration to existing building. There were few areas where the land may have changed."

Sims cautioned that simply because an assessed value goes down doesn't necessarily mean the amount of taxes a homeowner owes will go down, and vice versa.

"All that is determined by the millage rate by the county, city and school board," he said.

The millage rates are usually determined in June or July.

The estimated tax amount that is given at the top of the assessments is based on last year's millage rate and is only an estimate, not the actual taxes owed this year, said Sims.

To dispute an assessment, the appeal must be in writing postmarked no later than June 14.

There are three avenues to appeal, explained Sims.

One is to appeal to the Board of Equalization. If the property owner disagrees with the Board of Equalization's ruling, they can appeal to Superior Court. This applies for appeals on the value, denial of an exemption, uniformity of surrounding property values, and taxability.

Another way to appeal the value (but not other aspects) is for the owner to present an independent appraisal to the Tax Assessor's office. If the office disagrees with the appraisal, an independent arbitrator will be appointed to listen to both sides and determine a value. The owner will not be able to appeal this decision to Superior Court.

For properties worth $1 million or more that are not homesteaded, the assessment can be appealed to a hearing officer. If the property owner or Assessor's office disagrees with the hearing officer's decision, it can be appealed to Superior Court.

Sims invited owners to go to the Tax Assessor's website to pull up information on their property or surrounding properties to do their own analysis. Information on the website is current up to January 1, 2012.

He said so far, his office had received 40 appeals.

Last year, his office received 2,300 appeals, with 1,180 going to the Board of Equalization. The appeals that didn't make it to the Board of Equalization were withdrawn by the property owner or the value was arrived at, said Sims.

This is the second year that Tax Assessors have been required to send a notice to all property owners, not just the property owners whose values had changed. Before the new law's requirements, the Rockdale County Tax Assessor's office sent out around 15,000 notices two years ago, with about 1,500 appeals and 800 of those going on to the Board of Equalization.

Sims also offered to speak before homeowner's groups and other civic and neighborhood groups. To contact Sims, call (770) 278-7676, or go to