Bryan County Chief Tax Appraiser Liz Lynn is passionate about her job.
So much so she sometimes seems to be speaking a different language, especially if Lynn’s audience isn’t up to date on the formulaic science of government tax assessment.
That doesn’t keep her from trying to get the message out, however.
“Nothing we do is secret,” Lynn said. “People are always welcome to come by and make sure our information is correct. We work for the property owners of Bryan County.”
In that regard, she wants property owners to know tax notices will be mailed out soon and the final date to appeal an assessment is July 19. What’s more, she wants to remind them they’ll be paying an additional 1.5 mills this year as a result of the $100 million school bond voters approved in 2017. Also new in 2019 are the numbers. Some 367 residential and commercial structures built in 2018, as the county’s overall tax digest of more than $4 billion, consisting of all commercial, residential, industrial and agricultural property, rose 7 percent.
And there are more figures, such as the 19,385 parcels in Bryan County. Lynn said 365 are classified as exempt — such as churches, school and government property. There are 4,160 personal property accounts, consisting of business inventory and equipment, and boats valued at more than $7,500. There also are 1,013 “prebill accounts,” which are mobile homes in which the mobile home is owned but not the land.
And then there are the things that stay roughly the same from year to year.
Lynn and her staff, as well as an independent board of assessors appointed by county commissioners, undergo yearly training in their effort to assess property values “in a fair and uniform manner,” required by the Georgia Department of Revenue.
There are rules to follow, and the phrase “fair market value” comes up a lot when talking with Lynn.
With 2019 notices about to hit mailboxes, it comes up now.
“I would like to remind folks that the main purpose of their tax assessment is to notify them of the fair market value of their property,” she said. “The estimate of taxes is required, but it’s based on the prior year’s millage rate as mill rates are not set until after notices go out and the local governments set them.”
A home’s fair market value is arrived at by analyzing all sales in the county over the past year.
“If we’re high, we’re going to adjust and if we’re low, we’re going to adjust,” Lynn said. “Our report card will come from the Department of Audits, which is separate from the Department of Revenue. They come in and pull all sales and do their own appraisals.”
To pass, the county assessments making up the digest have to meet the DOR assessment within two percentage points either way - a four percent window Lynn calls “the ratio.”- Bryan County has met that ratio the past 21 years, Lynn said. She’s been chief appraiser here since 2013.
As for the digest, it’s based on Lynn and her staff’s work and is used by local governments to set their budgets and their respective millage rates. The millage rate set by the local governments – school board, county commission, municipalities - then determines what property owners pay in taxes. But, property owners only pay on 40 percent of the assessed value of that property.
And in Bryan County, there are more properties to assess every year, Lynn said. On both ends of Bryan County.
“We’re seeing more personal property, more business property, we’re seeing more of everything,” she said. “And our office has no choice but to recognize the changes in the market. We have a job to do just like the county or the school board.”