Over the last several months, our Board of Equalization has heard from many Bryan County Taxpayers. They voiced a message of concern and dismay about property values, uniformity of assessment and length of time taken to hear their 2005 and 2006 Appeals.
Both the Bryan County Board of Assessors and the Bryan County Board of Equalization are established under the Laws of the State of Georgia. Under State Law, both Boards are to operate independent from the County and have certain powers of their own. All members of both Boards must maintain minimum State education requirements or they cannot continue to serve. Neither Board may have members that are employees of the County. Employees of each Board work for their respective Board and are not employees of Bryan County. Instead they are paid by the County from Taxpayer dollars.
We would like to commend the Chief Assessor, Mr. Dan Rolff, for his commitment to enhance his office through technology. Our Board feels additional communication should take place between the Assessors office and the County Building Permit department. This will ensure newly completed improvements are properly classified as of January 1 of each year.For the Tax year 2006, County records reveal over 900 County Taxpayers filed Appeals. This number of Appeals exceeded the State Limit of 5% and was sufficient to prevent County Tax collections until the Digest was equalized. However, the County Tax Digest was "Certified" to the County Commissioners, by the Board of Assessors, as being "Equalized" prior to 2006 Appeals being heard by the Board of Equalization. Only the Board of Assessors can answer questions from interested Taxpayers, as to how the 2006 Tax digest was certified as being equalized without Appeals being heard. Appeals are sent to the Board of Equalization only after the Tax Assessors office completes its review. It is a major disservice to Taxpayers, when trying to justify valuations, if Appeals exceed 180 days in age.
The Board of Assessors should move aggressively to better improve the Bryan County Tax Assessor’s office. The Bryan County Commission and ultimately the Taxpayer, is the source of funding for such improvements. Adequate, knowledgeable staff members, better resources and accurate methods for assessing property values within Bryan County, are issues we strongly advise the Board of Assessors to adequately address and implore the Commissioners to promptly fund.
Bryan County has seen amazing growth in the past several years. Growth is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Perusal of the annual budget for the Board of Assessors is warranted. Needed funding and personnal have been limited or stymied. Unless the Assessors office is allowed to operate independently and efficiently, County growth will out pace our capacity to reconcile property valuations. County Commissioners must agree to enable sufficient funding to allow the Board of Assessors to hire, train and retain efficient staff to meet State deadlines of April each year for assessments, handle Appeals and maintain continuous evaluation of properties. Without these improvements the Board of Equalization will not be able to carry out its legal responsibilities.
State Law sets minimum standards for Assessor and Appraisers. Members of the Board of Assessors should insure Bryan County meets State of Georgia requirements at all times. Special attention is also directed toward improvement in methodology by which parcels are assessed within Bryan County. Two particular land groups, Waterfront and Marsh front land parcels, need direct attention. Valuations must be justified. Just being Waterfront or Marsh front property does not mean it should have the same valuation as a contiguous land parcel.
In recognition of recent trends in the local Real Estate market values and to better serve the Taxpayers of Bryan County, we feel compelled to require an entire re-evaluation of all NON-COMMERCIAL parcels to include Improved, Unimproved and Timberland parcels in Bryan County, for the Tax year 2009. Countywide re-evaluation will not be an inexpensive undertaking. However, if not revalued, property values will not be equal, fair and uniform, which will be a violation of State Law. Some parcel values will increase while others will decrease. It is the intention of this Board to promote fair, uniform and equal valuations for all Taxpayers in Bryan County. Taxpayers must demand their elected officials use County Tax dollars wisely and provide the Taxpayer, a justified return on their Tax-dollar investment.
It is with the utmost respect and the future betterment for the Taxpayers of Bryan County, that we the undersigned members of the Bryan County Board of Equalization make these observations and initiate this plan of action for year 2009 and beyond.
So say we each, so say we all.
Board Chairman - Owen Thayer
Board Member - Roy Goodman
Board Member - Richard Thomas