Group to fight Bibb home appraisals

A group formed to fight what it calls unfair property tax appraisals vowed this week to pursue all appeals and pressure state and local officials.

“Call your county commissioner. Tell ’em, ‘I don’t want to hear about it. Get it fixed,’” Tom Stevens, a Hamrick Road resident, told about 30 residents at a Tuesday night meeting. “They know it’s bad. Don’t you think we deserve better, especially when you’re paying these kinds of taxes?”

Organizers of the group, Bibb County Concerned Citizens for Fair Property Tax Appraisal, passed out the phone number of a state regulator and urged their neighbors to fight unfair tax appraisals in Superior Court.

County Commissioner Joe Allen said some of that pressure is misplaced. County commissioners’ interventions are limited to replacing Board of Assessors members for major violations. Commissioners can’t do anything else, said Allen, who notes his own taxes are going up.

“What can we do? I’m not breaking the law for them or anybody else,” said Allen, who represents Lake Tobesofkee on the County Commission. Most of the protest group’s membership comes from the lake. Allen said the assessors made some mistakes, but he sees no grounds to remove them and thinks the appeals process will bring fairness.

The group met Tuesday night to share strategies and tips. Harry Kozee, a bank official who lives on Tulokee Court, said his 35-year-old neighborhood has one-acre lots valued at about $171,000, which is double the price of some other lakefront properties in newer, more desirable neighborhoods. He compared his land prices to several other areas around Lake Tobesofkee.

“My neighborhood is almost $71,000 higher per lot, and $57,000 per acre,” he said. “I just can’t comprehend that.”

About 18,000 Bibb County property values are being appealed in what could be Bibb County’s first successful revaluation since 2001. Assessors say they expect to settle enough disputes by the end of the year that the county tax digest could be sent to the state for approval.

Jean Haygood, vice chairman of the tax assessors board, said this week she didn’t see much value in meeting with the protest group to speak about generalities when problems are so specific.

“If they have specific issues on their specific properties, they should come to us,” she said.

Tuesday night, group members were openly weighing the value of Superior Court appeals, which cost $83 to file, against the price of hiring a lawyer to see them through. None of the 13 Superior Court appeals filed so far have been heard, so group members are uncertain how they’ll be received.

It was the group’s second meeting, and the next one has not been scheduled.

Stevens said Wednesday that he won’t stop fighting his assessment. The value of the land his house sits on nearly tripled, from $66,000 to about $174,000.

“I’ll fight it,” he said. “I’ll fight it all the way to the Supreme Court of Georgia.”

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.