Bibb’s tax bills raise questions

Some of Bibb County’s 70,000 temporary tax bills mailed late last week are raising questions and eyebrows in some quarters.

While some bills are higher as a result of the county’s first major property revaluation in eight years, more property owners have been surprised by the Legislature’s revocation of a long-standing property credit, Tax Commissioner Tommy Tedders said.

That credit last year cut county tax bills by $274 and Macon tax bills by $336. Earlier this year, the state Legislature withdrew funding for the credit, known as the Homeowner’s Tax Relief Grant, when the state’s budget crumbled.

But the tax bills on revalued properties surprised some residents.

Hank Brown, who lives near Lake Tobesofkee, said he’s satisfied that revised valuations of his property are at least in the ballpark of being correct, despite a significant increase. But he still got sticker shock when he saw the actual tax bill.

His monthly budget for property taxes will have to increase from $230 to $566. He’d dreamed for decades of retiring on family land after years of living near Atlanta. He owns three separate multi-acre properties — some of it lakefront property — and a new home.

“I tell folks, if I had to pay for it, I probably couldn’t afford to live out here. And now with what the county’s doing on the tax, I’m not sure how much longer we’ll be able to stay,” he said.

Tim Thornton, who opposed the county’s plan to issue the temporary tax bills, said the tax mailings that property owners received this week aren’t as clear as he thinks they should be. Thornton said the double-sided letters from Macon, Bibb County and the school system don’t clarify the appeals situation.

Property owners appealing increases of less than 200 percent got a break of 50 percent on the temporary tax bills. People whose valuations tripled, or more, are paying on 30 percent of the value.

Thornton said owners facing the largest increases should have been told more explicitly about the judge’s orders. Some of the disputed tax bills correctly point out that interest won’t accrue until mid-March, but nothing about that delay appears in the six pages of letters.

“ ‘Many issues and factors will affect the temporary bill,’ ” Thornton quoted one of the letters. “That’s the only inference. I think there’s going to be a lot of confusion over it.”

Final tax statements — including refunds or additional bills — will be sent to property owners next spring after appeals are finalized.