Thousands of Bibb County residents appeal property value assessments

About 70,000 Bibb County property owners received tax assessment notices in May, and not surprisingly, not everyone was pleased with the result.

The Board of Tax Assessors received almost 3,400 appeals of assessments this year, said Andrea Crutchfield, chief appraiser for Bibb County. That’s about 1,400 fewer than the 4,800 last year.

The board generally receives more appeals when property values go up, Crutchfield said, because higher property values generally mean higher taxes.

This year, “most (values) either stayed the same or went down,” she said.

The highest concentrations of increased property assessments were in neighborhoods near the Middle Georgia Regional Airport and off Vineville Avenue. Most of the lower assessments were in neighborhoods in east and south Macon, but Crutchfield said there were decreases across the county.

Emily Schroeder, co-owner and director of Bright Star Learning Center in the southern part of the county, filed an appeal because she contends the value of the day care center should be lower based on property values in the surrounding area.

There are unsold houses and vacant properties near her center, she said, and plans for new businesses that potentially could raise values have not come to fruition.

Based on the day care’s tax assessment, Schroeder said her property taxes would increase from about $22,000 to $28,000.

The business’ property value went up more than $100,000, from $746,410 last year to $875,477 this year.

Schroeder said she is concerned the higher property taxes will force her to raise prices.

“We’re not the type of business that makes a huge profit,” she said. “We have to have a certain amount of money to even survive.”

Macon City Councilman Rick Hutto also appealed his assessment.

Hutto, who lives in the Shirley Hills neighborhood, said the assessed value of his home rose by almost $50,000 this year.

Hutto said some houses in his neighborhood aren’t selling, so he thinks the increase in his assessed value is out of line with property values of homes near him.

“I really want to see what they have to substantiate their numbers,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything to support it.”

When the board receives an appeal, it notifies the property owner of its decision within 180 days.

If the board does not change the value, the appeal goes directly to the Board of Equalization.

If the board changes the value and the property owner still disagrees, the owner can file another appeal to the Board of Equalization within 30 days.

If still unhappy, the owner can then appeal to Superior Court.

The number of appeals received this year by the Board of Tax Assessors pales in comparison to the 18,000 appeals the board received in 2009.

That number was on the heels of a revaluation that began in 2007 in which every property in Bibb County was physically examined and evaluated.

In 2007, some properties had not been evaluated in almost 10 years, so almost all property values increased, she said.

“Now we are required to send everyone an assessment notice every year,” Crutchfield said. “We are trying to do more looking at everything every year.”

Every piece of property is not examined each year. Instead, the board looks at sales trends in neighborhoods and focuses on areas that are experiencing unusual patterns.

Crutchfield said the board welcomes appeals because it strives for accuracy in assessing property values.

“It’s a good thing because there could be something we have wrong,” she said.

To contact writer Liz Bibb, call 744-4425.