Board of Assessors discuss policy updates, revisions

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BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Updates of two policies and suggestions for the revision of a third were discussed at the Thursday, Nov. 9, Fannin County Board of Assessors (BOA) meeting.

The Construction in Progress on January 1 Market Risk Factor policy was updated. According to the policy, if new construction of or additions to a structure are determined to be still in progress as of January 1 each year, a uniform market risk factor of 75 percent will be given after the actual percentage of completion is determined by the appraiser. Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran stated the policy was mandated by the state.

“What market risk factor is: if a house is under construction, and (it is) only 60 percent (complete) by law we’re required to put a 0.75 (into the Cost Design Field), giving (the taxpayer) a 25 percent discount because of the risk on the market for not being complete if it were to sell,” Cochran explained.

The Extension of Time to File an Appeal policy was amended to read the Board “will not extend the appeal time frame set according to Official Code of Georgia 48-5-311.”

The opinion of County Attorney Lynn Doss, as presented by Cochran, stated, “The Georgia Court of Appeals has made it very clear that there can be no extension of the time for filling an appeal and any appeal filed subsequent to the statutory filing deadlines will be dismissed … There is not any provision in the law for the Tax Assessors to waive the time frame for filing an appeal.”

In essence, for county taxpayers, if an appeal is not filed with the Board of Assessors within the allotted deadline, the Board cannot make an exception to extend the given deadline.

In a continuation of discussion from the October BOA meeting, the tax assessors Locked Gate/Access Denied policy for field appraisers was reviewed for revision. Cochran explained she had studied similar policies from surrounding counties. The Board agreed, though no official action was taken, that steps should include leaving a door knocker note at the parcel followed by a phone call placed to the taxpayer of the parcel with blocked access informing the owner of the need to access the property to appraise. Next, if no communication can be reached, the tax assessors office would send a certified letter to the taxpayer. After a period, still to be determined, if contact cannot be reached, the parcel would then be appraised using information such as building permits and aerial photography.

After Cochran mentioned one nearby county’s procedure included allowing field appraisers to walk around lock gates if possible, Board member Troy Junnier stated he was strictly opposed to this idea. “There’s no sense in putting an assessor in harm’s way,” Junnier said.

Junnier also stressed the need of cooperation from parcel owners to communicate with the tax assessors office if a blocked access situation occurs to allow for an accurate appraisal for the taxpayer.

Field Appraiser Sharon Burke discussed a situation with an appraisal that involved a portion of a home that had been added to a structure that was originally built in 1902. Cochran added that the dilemma in the appraisal was whether to appraise the structure based on the original build date or the date of the modern renovations.

“Why we wanted to bring it to you,” Cochran told the Board, “is we are going to make this basically our policy, our uniform way of doing this if we run across this again. And we will.”

The Board agreed the home should be appraised according to the addition portion of the structure and that this procedure should also be followed in similar appraisal situations that may follow.

Cochran said the procedural change would be added to the Residential Cost Manual for field appraisers to create uniformity for the future.

In other business, four appeals were forwarded to the Board of Equalization by the Board of Assessors.

Also, four invoices totaling $7,097.08 were approved, which included costs for computer system upgrades ($3,024.12) as well as the purchase of backup tapes for department servers ($700), four new office filing cabinets ($2,699.96) and uniforms for two new tax assessors department employees ($673). Cochran stated the expenditures would be purchased with funds from capital outlay.

In addition, Jan. 10, 2018, was approved by the Board as a settlement conference date for potential taxpayer appeals that have cycled through the Board of Equalization and may need to be forwarded to Superior Court. Cochran told the Board there were as many as five potential cases that could be addressed at the January settlement conference.

 

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