Assessors: Average property value up 30 percent in Bibb County

Property tax values should go up an average of about 30 percent in Bibb County because of the nearly finished revaluation, the tax assessors office said Monday.

That doesn’t mean everyone’s property taxes will go up, just that the average increase across about 68,000 parcels of property in the county works out to about 30 percent, Chief Appraiser Andrea Crutchfield said.

“Some will be more, some will be less,” she said.

The board of assessors is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. Friday to approve the revaluation, which largely was put together by a private consultant. The board plans to send value notices by mail May 1, and property owners will have an opportunity to appeal.

Because this is the first countywide revaluation of properties since 2001, increases are largely expected.

The increases are spread across the county, though the north Macon area will probably see the most increases, Crutchfield said.

“Things there are selling still,” she said. “Going up, rather than declining in value.”

Whether the increase in tax values leads to higher property taxes remains to be seen. Tax bills are figured using the assessed values as well as millage rates, which are set each year by local governments. State law requires the city, county commission and school board to either roll back their millage rates to offset the increase in property values or hold three public hearings and keep the extra revenue.

It’s too early to say what each body will decide, though some council members said Monday it will be hard to roll back the millage rate all the way and leave new revenue on the table. City finances have been tight for years, revenues are down this year because of the economy and a sales tax surplus that the council raided earlier this year won’t be there for the coming budget year, which starts July 1.

“I think the city’s going to need the money,” Councilwoman Elaine Lucas said Monday after a presentation from Crutchfield and Board of Assessors Chairman Bill Vaughn.

“I have never voted for a tax increase, but ... nothing is ever off the table,” Councilman Rick Hutto said.

Further complicating things is a change in state policy that will cost homeowners, or local governments, millions this fall. Because of the down economy, the state cut from its budget $428 million that has funded a tax break for homeowners in the past. Come this fall, local governments will have to raise taxes or cut their own budgets to make up for that money.

State law also required the county to do this revaluation. Because Bibb County’s values have been out of whack for several years, the state has fined the county about $500,000, Vaughn said.

The goal is to get those values back in line with actual fair market sales, and that’s why Tyler CLT was paid nearly $2 million to perform the revaluation after the county’s own attempt was thrown out in 2006 and the entire board of assessors was replaced.

For this revaluation, 2008 sales were used to establish fair market values on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, Crutchfield said. If a neighborhood has had more sales in 2009 and the property owner wants those calculated into the revaluation process, they can request that during the appeals process, she said.

The assessors’ office, located at 653 Second St., is asking people to make appointments this year to appeal their values. But it’s not required, and people will be seen on a first-come, first-serve basis, Vaughn said.

To contact writer Travis Fain, call 744-4213.