The Fannin County Young Farmers Association held their monthly meeting and agriculture talk on Dec. 18, 2017, at noon at the Feed Fannin Farm House at the Fannin County School System property on Ada Street. Twenty-four were in attendance. The meal was sponsored by Fannin County Farm Bureau, Circle J Steakhouse, and Wendy’s of Blue Ridge. The program focused on updates in taxes, insurance, and property appraisals in the agricultural industry. Speakers were Dawn Cochran, of the Fannin County Property Appraisers office, Charlie Edmondson, of State Farm Insurance, and Stephanie Ingle, representing Jackson Hewitt Tax Service. Association business was led by President Kenny Queen and discussed, and the meeting was adjourned at 1:45 p.m. The January meeting and talk will be held Jan. 15 at the Veranda at Cucina Rustica at noon. Mark Lee, owner of RC Drones sales and service will lead the presentation on The Use of Drones in Agriculture.
The Fannin County Board of Commissioners held its regular meeting on June 27th 2017.
The meeting agenda included Dawn Cochran – Chief Appraiser for the Fannin County Tax Assessors, who gave a Tax Assessor update.
Cochran began her update with presenting the Commissioners a 2013 verses 2016 audit sales ratio study and stated they had received the 2016 study from Department of Audits on June 27th. She had compiled a summary to explain where Fannin had been and where it currently stood in relation to the audits. In 2013 the Fannin overall ratio study was at 35.31 and has now come up to a 38.79. The residential ratio study was a 35.49 and for 2016 sales has now come up to 38.45. The COD which is the coefficient of dispersion was a 19.54 and is now a 14.90. The PRD was a 105.02 and is now a 102.89. Acceptable ranges were provided to the Commissioners and so for the 2015 Department of Audit all of the categories were in line, within the range.
When it comes to coefficient of dispersion, (COD), the Georgia Department of Revenue regulations currently allow a COD of up to .20 for non-residential properties, and a .15 for residential properties. The COD actually measures fairness or uniformity. Based upon a review, the Commissioner will approve a digest when it is found to be reasonably uniform and equalized by having met the following state standards:
- The average level of assessment for each class of property meets the mandated state standard of 36% to 44%;
- The average measure of overall equalization, the coefficient of dispersion, meets the state standard of 15% or less for residential properties and 20% or less for all other property classes; and
- The bias ratio, or statistical measure of price‐related differential, meets the state standard of 95% to 110%.
The Coefficient of Dispersion – the statistical representation of equalization. The Price-Related Differential – the statistical measure of assessment bias. This demonstrates whether lower or higher-priced properties are more accurately assessed.
The second part of the tax update was a sample of actual 2013 Sales ratio study showing residential and Agriculture, Commercial & Industrial were grouped together. The third part of the summary was an actual letter from the Department of Revenue.
The letter stated the issues with Fannin County’s Residential COD being out of line in 2010 and also out of line in 2013 (2010 it was a 21.08 and 2013 it was a 19.54) and in order to be in line it has to be a 15 or less. This year it actually fell at 14.90. The 2013 Ratio Study was out of line also coming in at a 35.31 that number now is a 38.79. The letter explained Fannin County was facing a $130,000 dollar fine. The Board of Assessor and the Board of Commissioners elected to enter into a consent order with the Department of Revenue in order to gain additional time to correct the deficiencies.
Cochran said, “We’ve all been waiting to see where these numbers fall and in 2016 they did fall within the guidelines.”
The last part of the update Cochran provided the 2013 county portion of the net digest verses the 2017. The 2017 is preliminary right now because they are still in the point of assessment notices and 30 day tracking right now. She asserted the appeal process was going really well stating they had approximately 250 appeals and were still conducting the site visits. They have 10,000 or less left to look at out of the 27,000 parcels. They have seen quite a bit of increase in values and the majority of those assessment notices which have gone up were instances where taxpayers had not been paying for everything to begin with, for example they hadn’t been paying for a garage or basement square footage. If you do have questions on your assessment she encourages you to come by the Tax Assessors office so they can review your account for accuracy.
Fannin County Commission Chair Stan Helton felt the big take away from the update was in 2013 Fannin was below the State requirement and is now, in 3 years, in the acceptable range and also this should remove them from the consent order. Helton said it reflected a lot of hard work the last few years to basically get the County out of trouble and keep the State from trying to take it over. Cochran thanked her staff and the Commissioners for helping work through the difficulties.
Helton asked, “So is it a fair statement to say that the three of us here will sometime in the near future going to have to look at giving a millage decrease and some tax relief to the citizens of the County?” Cochran answered, “I think so, with the increase of the value of our actual digest value, the increase there, I think the School Board and the Commissioners should be taking a look at that and seeing if they can roll back the mill rate…” Helton responded with, “This is big news!”
Cochran expects to hear from the Department of Revenue about the consent order being removed probably mid-July since they were waiting on these current numbers. Everything was contingent on the numbers meeting their criteria.
Post Commissioner Earl Johnson said, “I’m glad to get back in compliance because I know since I’ve been here this has been an issue. It’s one of the issues I hope we will have behind us and never surfaces again. You all did a good job. We already had the cheapest millage rate in Georgia now we are definitely going to have the cheapest, maybe.”
Helton thanked Cochran and the Assessor Board stating it had been a lot of work on their shoulders and thanked everyone for their involvement. So this could indicate good news for Fannin County property owners who may enjoy a lower mill rate in the near future.
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The Fannin County Board of Commissioners held its regular meeting on June 27th 2017.
Old business included the appointment of Karen Jones as County Clerk and approval of minutes from June 13th. New Business included 3 variance requests which were approved. A tax assessor update, update on condemnations and trash control, approval of the Water Authority Budget and a change of meeting time for the Commissioners meetings. See full meeting video.
In a unanimous vote Tuesday night, August 23, the Fannin County Board of Education elected to roll back their millage rate.
The Millage will be set at 12.38 mills representing an estimated $15,522,084 in total school taxes levied. Superintendent Mark Henson said, “If your assessment did not change, you’ll actually see a decrease in what you pay in taxes.”
There will be a further meeting involving the millage as the Board continues discussing its budget on Wednesday, August 31, at 8:00am.
The Fannin County Board of Commissioners held its regular meeting on July 14th, 2015. The meeting took place just a few hours after a court decision in favor of Fannin County Post Commissioners Earl Johnson and Larry Joe Sosebee. A lawsuit filed by Commission Chair Bill Simonds against the post commissioners, seeking sole control of hiring and firing of Department Heads in the County was dismissed in a court proceeding in Fannin.
The meeting began with approval of minutes and a 1st vote on Home Rule Spending Limit Ordinance. Comments from the Commissioners appeared to show effort of trying to put the court case behind them and moving forward to do the work elected to do for Fannin County. Commission Chair Simonds response did not give a definite answer as to whether he will appeal.
Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran and Personal Property Appraiser Yvonne Middlebrook spoke to the Commissioners concerning the personal property laws as pertains to the Tax Assessor’s office. The pair sought the “agreement” if you will from the Commissioners for the Tax Assessor’s office to follow the law and send certified letters, followed by subpoenas, in circumstances where businesses failed to respond to the request for inventory information. There was not a specific name mentioned during this time however we were left with an impression it was a sizeable business that was not in compliance. The Commission Board moved and agreed to the request showing its support. While it is not necessary for a vote from the Commission Board to follow the law, the support for the proper action to take place was shown by the vote.
Additional business of the County saw the approval of the upcoming expenditures to move from $2500 to $4500 through resolution. There was comments (opposition) if you will from someone stating this was not the legal way to change this, asking if it shouldn’t be done by an ordinance change. Lynn Doss, County Attorney, replied, in essence, the amount was under a previous higher amount, therefore it shouldn’t be a problem.
There was discussion on the 10% Splost and a motion and move to begin investigation into the a new Fannin County Fire Department. Currently the Fire Department is housed downtown in a small and difficult in and out location. The property for a new facility has been purchased and it appears early planning stages will begin. There was also a motion and a move which was passed to pay for the new facility from Splost. Mr. Johnson saying, “People like to touch how the tax money is spent.”
During public commentary concerns regarding a bonus to Marie Woody was questioned. The bonus was given by the Water Authority however it was claimed the $1200 check was written out of the Splost account. Some from the crowd said they heard from rumor and asked for transparency. Lynn Doss, County Attorney, stood and replied the meeting of the Water Authority, where the decision was made to give the bonus, was public.
Ending comments from the Commissioners seemed to show a sign of relief for having the court case behind it and Earl Johnson made the point of having 3 working on decisions was a better scenario for the taxpayers of Fannin County. Johnson referred to a list of roads to be paved he had received in the mail, explaining it would make sense for the 3 to meet on these matters since he could use his expertise in paving to negotiate better pricing for the County. Hopefully the Commissioners will move forward and work together.