With results from the pending countywide revaluation expected to trim about 10-15 percent off the county tax digest, county and school officials will be faced with some tough budget choices in the coming months.
In short, it comes down to cutting services, raising taxes or both – which is probably most likely.
As a result, local homeowners may find themselves with a bigger property tax bill at the end of the year. This latest chapter in the headache over property taxes should illuminate a tax assessment system that remains in serious need of repair.
After all, the last time Bryan County did a countywide revaluation was in 2006 – at the height of the local real estate boom. Then, a good number of homeowners in South Bryan were hit with drastically higher tax bills because their property values had gone through the roof since the reassessment a few years prior.
Now, local homeowners may find their homes supposedly worth less but their taxes going up anyway, while others may actually see a decrease in their tax bill depending on the neighborhood and how home sales in it faired during the last couple of years.
The possibility of a tax hike is not going to be an easy pill to swallow for those who may have to choke it down. Nor should it be. But local lawmakers probably won’t have much choice in the matter – the 10-15 percent drop in property values will equate to around $9 million in the county budget alone.
Some say local government should have done a better job of regulating growth during the boom years, or at the least instituted impact fees to help pay for it. Others blame an economy and housing market that went belly up, leaving local governments with no other option than raising taxes or slashing services. Both arguments are like closing the barn door after the horse got out. But at the end of the day, it’s the system that needs changing.
If there’s ever a more convincing argument that Georgia’s property tax system could probably use an overhaul, it’s the budget difficulties local governments will be faced with in the coming year.