About 1,200 Bibb County property owners file tax appeals in first week

Dennis Floyd was surprised when the new property assessment on his Lizella home showed the value had more than doubled to nearly $153,000.

He was even more surprised to find out why.

“She says, ‘You’ve got a trailer on the lot,’” Floyd said of his Wednesday meeting with a county appraiser. “I says, ‘I sold that thing 10 years ago.’ ”

Floyd, a retired Bibb County firefighter, said he removed the 14-by-65 foot trailer when he moved into his newly built house in 1999. The appraiser told him the assessors would correct the problem and send him a new assessment, Floyd said.

He said his experience should serve as a lesson to other residents to check their property if something looks suspicious.

“When they talk about money and evaluating people’s property, make sure what (the appraisers are) evaluating is there,” he said.

Between 150 and 200 Bibb property owners visited the Macon-Bibb County Board of Tax Assessors Office each day last week, Chief Appraiser Andrea Crutchfield said. It was the first week property owners had to file an appeal for their 2009 assessment, which was the result of a countywide property revaluation.

As of Friday morning, about 1,200 appeals had been filed, Crutchfield said.

“It’s been pretty steady,” she said.

Because of the magnitude of the revaluation — appraisers had to look at all of Bibb’s about 68,000 parcels — some mistakes, such as Floyd’s, are inevitable, she said. In meetings with property owners, the office has found some other errors, such as incorrect acreage or the wrong year a house was built, she said.

Assessors will sign off on value changes related to these mistakes at their next board meeting, she said. Affected property owners then will be sent new assessments and have another opportunity to appeal.

“Our goal is to get them correct,” Crutchfield said.

Eddie Baker is among the property owners who filed an appeal after meeting with an appraiser last week.

Baker said he wanted to know why the value on his south Bibb home increased to almost $421,000 when in March he settled a previous appeal with the Board of Equalization for $314,000.

The Board of Equalization is an independent board of three people appointed by the grand jury to hear appeals.

“They agreed my rate was too high,” he said. “If I could sell it for that, I would, but I’m not going to get $420,000 out of that.”

The county appraiser, Baker said, told him the previous appeal didn’t count for this year. If he wanted to dispute his 2009 value, he had to appeal again, Baker said.

Crutchfield said any values prior to 2009, including those not settled until this year, were calculated using cost tables from 2001, the last time the county had a successful revaluation. Cost tables are like equations that appraisers use to help calculate a property’s value.

Joann Cross said she wanted to know how the value was calculated for her south Bibb home near Smiley’s Flea Market.

She bought the home in April for about $42,000, she said, but her new assessment is nearly $82,000.

Cross said she didn’t see how that was possible considering the home’s unlevel floors and leaky roof.

“If they think it’s worth $82,000, they can write me a check right now,” Cross said. “That’s a lot of money. I bought that house because I don’t have a lot of money.”

Cross said she has an appointment at the tax assessors office scheduled for today.

Appointments are not required, although the tax assessors office encourages them to cut down on waiting. About 20 people were in the office’s waiting room Friday afternoon, using about half of the available seating. Property owners have until July 6 to appeal.

It’s still unknown whether the number of appeals will surpass the more than 18,000 that were generated in 2006. That revaluation eventually was thrown out for containing numerous flaws. In an effort to fix the mess, Bibb paid nearly $2 million to Ohio-based Tyler CLT Co. to complete the 2009 revaluation.

Whatever happens, the county must whittle down the number of appeals it receives to fewer than 5 percent of the total number of parcels before a new tax digest can be submitted. In Bibb, that’s about 3,400 appeals.

If a digest can’t be submitted in a timely manner, officials will have to get permission from the state to use the current digest and issue a temporary tax billing.

A delay in mailing tax bills could delay the city, county and school board from collecting tax revenue and further complicate their already tight budgets.

To contact writer Jennifer Burk, call 744-4345.