Thursday, February 18, 2010

SNA Meeting; Are You Paying Too Much in Property Taxes?

The newly formed Springfield Neighborhood Association, a voluntary organization, will meet 7:30 tonight in the upper conference at The Crier, 5064 Nandina Ln. It will be a short meeting in which we will discuss the bylaws as well as the collection for maintaining the front entrance. Sorry for not getting this notice out sooner, but we hope to see you there!
The following article appeared on the front page of today's Atlanta Journal Constitution as well as online at

By Michelle E. Shaw
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Briana Henry-Frisby and Rae Anne Harkness both own homes in DeKalb County, and both suspect they’re paying too much in property taxes. The fact that both work in the DeKalb tax commissioner’s office doesn’t actually help.

“Now is not the time to leave any money laying on the table, or anywhere,” Henry-Frisby said.
But she may well be leaving behind a tidy pile of cash when it comes to property taxes.A report to be released today concludes that property owners in the five core metro Atlanta counties overpaid their property taxes by an average of $244 in 2009. And people who live in areas hard hit by foreclosures, as do Henry-Frisby and Harkness, overpaid by even more, says an analysis commissioned by the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership.
AJC findings confirmed
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in December reported that tens of thousands of homes across metro Atlanta were overvalued last year by county tax assessors, who didn’t adjust values sufficiently after the historic real estate collapse. Homeowners, the newspaper reported, were being taxed on values their property no longer held. The report today tends to confirm the AJC’s findings and also, for the first time, calculates an average overpayment.
John O’Callaghan, ANDP president, said the report focuses on property tax values from 2009 for neighborhoods with the highest foreclosure rates in metro Atlanta.

“What this does is give a picture of the average homeowner,” he said. “Some are underpaying and others are overpaying by a larger margin. We hope this data and research will lead to changes in the system.”
Calvin Hicks, chief assessor in DeKalb County, balks at the idea that people have “overpaid” taxes. “County services still cost what they cost,” Hicks said. “So maybe it is that property [valuations] should have gone down, but the millage rate should have gone up. That still may have equaled the same amount of tax money, but coming from different directions.”
Hicks said foreclosures affect neighborhood values in different ways and said county officials are working on the best way to reflect those properties in future valuations.
ANDP’s report, prepared by Robert Charles Lesser & Co., breaks out the three ZIP codes with the most foreclosures in Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties and the average amount homeowners overpaid their taxes for 2009.
The study took sales values from the second half of 2008 and contrasted those numbers to the value the county set on the same property.
Analysts then calculated what the tax assessment would have been based on sales figures, compared to actual assessments on the same properties.
Ammo for appeals?

In the 15 ZIP codes with the most foreclosures, the average overpayment for 2009 was $491, the report says. Here are the ZIPs and the total estimated overpayment in each:
● Clayton: 30238, 30274 and 30296, $17 million overpayment.
● Cobb: 30168, 30127, and 30126, $8 million overpayment.
DeKalb: 30038, 30058 and 30032, $16 million overpayment.
● Fulton: 30310, 30315 and 30331, $24 million overpayment.
● Gwinnett: 30039, 30045 and 30044, $17 million overpayment.

In DeKalb’s 30058, Henry-Frisby’s ZIP code, the average overpayment in 2009 was $391.
“There is a lot I can do with that money,” she said.
Harkness said she doesn’t have much hope of getting back the $513 ANDP’s report says was the average overpayment in her ZIP, 30032.
“But it is good to know, and it gives me something else to work with when I appeal this year,” she said.
Both said that working in the tax commissioner’s office does them no good when it comes to their own tax valuations.
“No, I only work for the county,” Henry-Frisby said. “When it comes to my house and things outside of the office, I’m in the same boat as everybody else. I’ve got to call the same people they do and I’ve got to wait for them to call me back, too.”
Said Harkness: “The only advantage I can think of is I know how the system works and who to call, but that doesn’t help change my situation at all.”
Charles Bowman, a DeKalb teacher who lives in Gwinnett’s 30039 ZIP code, said he wasn’t surprised to hear homeowners in his area overpaid by an average of $503 last year.
“This information makes me feel more inclined to act and appeal my assessment than before,” he said of the report. “That money, had we gotten a refund from our escrow account, could have been used to do some badly needed repair on our home.”
Bowman, who has two children with his wife, Tamiko, said that money could have gone to a number of other things, including his Ph.D. studies.
“I think everyone everywhere is trying to be smart about how and when they spend money,” he said. “And right now it just hurts to think there may have been some money that could have been used differently, if we’d had the chance.”

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