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County gets lowdown on property value freeze
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Bryan County Chief Tax Appraiser Dan Rolf gave county commissioners the lowdown on the state’s freezing of state property assessments at 2008 values.

"It places a temporary freeze on property values for the next three years," he told the commission Tuesday at its regular, monthly meeting in Pembroke.

The only "new" valuations to be allowed are on new construction, and 2008 tables will be used to determine that value, Rollf said.

As a consequence, the Tax Assessor’s office will be required to maintain records of both the frozen value and the current, fair market value, Rollf said, because the state Department of Audits uses the fair market value ratio which affects utilities, services, grants, "and many other things I’m sure I don’t know about."

In addition, Rolf said requirements for notifying property owners and occupants -- who can sometimes be different -- have also changed, and now both owner and occupant have to be notified of the appraiser’s intention to inspect the property.

That can be costly, Rolff said.

"Calling each is difficult because we don’t have phone numbers for most of the people. Postage is at least forty-four cents and would require two letters be sent, adding a significant expense. It’s a constraining requirement," he said.

Currently, Rollf said, assessors are leaving notices on doors and returning a couple days later to follow up, which raises expense by increasing gas and staff time needed to travel multiple times to the same locations, several outlying.

Rollf noted other legislation will be going into effect next year which will also take revenues away from local government and ultimately cause taxes to go up.

"The money has to come from somewhere," Rollf said. "Ultimately, it’s shifting the tax burden in the wrong direction, back to residential property owners by forcing commissioners to raise milliage rates."

Board member Rick Gardner said he felt it was the state and federal governments’ way of removing power from the local level, by putting them in situations where they are forced to raise taxes or cut services to survive and look like the "bad guys."

"The legislature doesn’t think county commissions can handle (governing certain things) and is taking it away from home rule," he said. "They are trying to usurp the power of the people at the local level."

Rollf said Bryan County was fortunate compared to the remainder of the country.

"We didn’t get hit in the housing market as quickly as the rest of the country," he said.

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