Like property owners across coastal Georgia, those in Bryan County face higher property taxes this year due to rapidly rising property values and local governments reluctant to take rollback rates.
At least they’ll have more time to pay them in Bryan County, where this year’s taxes, usually due in mid-November, won’t be have to be paid until Dec. 1.
That delay is a result of a combination of factors, including the county’s growth.
For example, the county-wide tax digest has grown by 29 percent since 2022, officials say, and is now more than $7 billion, much of it due to the increase in values of industrial property as more industries - including Hyundai - set up shop in Bran County.
As a result, the total county digest in 2023 is $7,066,636,732, up from last year’s $5,615,866,790.
The taxable value of the digest is less, because property is only taxed at 40 percent of its value. That was $2,826,654,693 in 2023, up from $2,246,364,715 in 2022.
That value is determined by Bryan County Chief Assessor Liz Lynn’s office, which is required by state law to ensure local property values are consistent with annual sales in the local real estate market by determining a property’s fair market value. That in turn must fall within a four-percentage point window - 2 percent under or over, and is audited annually by the state.
In the meantime, while the Dec. 1 deadline is later than it has been over the last decade, longtime property owners in Bryan County may remember that prior to 2013 the due date was Dec. 20, the day by which the state requires all property taxes be paid.
That proximity to the Christmas holidays led Tax Commissioner Carrol Ann Coleman in 2013 to request the date be moved to Nov. 15 locally.
Though property values are one variable in tax bills, the other is millage rates. Among local governments only Bryan County has consistently adopted the rollback rate to avoid raising taxes on property owners and is among the bottom 10 percent in terms of millage rates in the state, county officials say. Other taxing authorities, including Pembroke, Richmond Hill and the Bryan County Board of Education, have maintained the same millage rates, citing the increased need for services.
All residents pay a combined millage rate, minus exemptions. Those are determined by where in the county a property owner lives. For example, a resident of unincorporated Bryan County will pay 2023 taxes on a combined millage rate of 23.23 mills – 6.65 to the county, 15.075 to schools and an additional 1.5 mill for the $100 million in bonds to build new schools. They’ll also pay a $220 fee for fire and another $180 for solid waste pickup, and the fee for commercial and industrial fire is $220.
Pembroke residents pay a combined millage rate of 33.23 mills, which includes the county portion, school and school bond portion and the city’s 10.0 mills, plus as well as a fire fee of $36 for improved residential lots and $25 for lots.
Richmond Hill residents pay a combined millage rate of 27.362, which includes county, school and the city’s millage rate of 4.132. Richmond Hill residents also pay a fire fee of $112.50 per residential lot, $225 for residential with improvements. A fire fee of $600 for commercial and industrial sites with improvements and a $300 for commercial and industrial sites without improvements.
Contrast that with neighboring Effingham County, which is frequently compared to Bryan County.
There, the unincorporated rate is 6.939, but residents also pay .1 mill for parks, another .65 mill for recreation, 1.25 mills for public works, 1.58 for the hospital and 2 mills for the industrial authority.
School taxes in Effingham are 15.810 mills, and Guyton residents pay $2.929 mills while Springfield’s millage rate is 7 mills, according to the Georgia Department of Revenue, which has a breakdown of millage rates by county.
Effingham County also charged a $120 fire fee and a $243 sanitation fee in 2022, according to the county website.
Municipal fire and sanitation fees for Guyton and Springfield were not available.