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2-5-09 Tax Assessments and Digests should decrease this year BUT don’t hold your breath!

Commercial Buildings and Office complexes have many vacancies. Some have been vacant for months leaving the owners without any income. However, the Tax Assessors keep saying, “…according to State Law, our ‘values’ are holding up….”

AVOC

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February 3, 2009

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Tax Assessments and Digests should decrease this year BUT don’t hold your breath!

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By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc

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Everybody knows we are in a deep recession and nobody is buying much.   Foreclosures are rampant.   Vacant houses sit long periods of time with “For Sale” signs.   Offices sit vacant but the tax assessments remain the same or increase.   This phenomenon strains one’s credulity about the process and system.

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Office vacancies not uncommon in Oconee 2-09

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Commercial Buildings and Office complexes have many vacancies.   Some have been vacant for months leaving the owners without any income.   However, the Tax Assessors keep saying, “…according to State Law, our ‘values’ are holding up….”    Most citizens know that is not the real world we are living in.   The Digest should go down BUT the system is a one-way street!It can only run uphill.

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Office Vacant since August 2008- tax assessment and taxes remain same

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The Federal Government keeps spending and taxing.   The State government keeps spending and taxing and still has a huge deficit.    County and City governments keep spending and taxing.

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The Georgia Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and the Lease Purchase arrangements by the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) have helped to build expensive facilities that carry high annual operating and maintenance costs that are funded by the local property tax budget.Increased sales taxes HAVE NOT lowered property taxes!   They have increased and will continue to do so until taxpayers and voters do something.   Many are reaching that point.

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Locally, Oconee is talking about a March SPLOST referendum for a tax revenue of $ 40 Million much of which will go on indebtedness contracted by the commissioners without a referendum and with the complicity of the ACCG Lease-Purchase program.

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Taxpayers and citizens need to demand more accountability and less spending.   Our economy is not going to bounce back to the “Boom Period” of a few years ago in the near term.   Revenues will decline because of the recession.   Many property tax accounts are delinquent and the county and school system has to make it up from those of us who are paying our taxes.

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It has been encouraging to hear State Rep Bob Smith talking about Tax Reform.  However, his Constitutional Convention idea is bad and won’t go anywhere.   The Legislature needs to set up a Special Commission.   We need to get rid of most of the “special tax breaks” that shift the Georgia property tax to the average homeowner.   Even now the Homebuilding Lobby is seeking special breaks.  See AJC 1-16-09.

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The Minutes of the Oconee BOC meeting of January 27, 2009 (see excerpts below) dealt with some tax issues.   Chief Appraiser Alan Skinner repeated his theme that Oconee Values are holding up!   (See details at Lee Becker’s Blog on 1-27-09 Meeting-TDRs).   The BOC hesitated in reappointing a member of the Board of Assessors.   We have good folks on that Board but it is time for new blood.We need some new assessors and not just landowners (who have big tax breaks with Conservation Use).

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The minutes also quoted Mike Power about the Digest and Assessments going down this year.   Mr. Power is one our largest property taxpayers and has always challenged increased assessments.   He should join forces with average citizens who appeal their assessments.   The system is designed to overwhelm individual taxpayers.    The Tax Assessment system in Georgia needs a Class Action suit to challenge its process and values.    It is time the world of reality be introduced to the system.


EXCERPTS OCONEE BOC MINUTES FROM JANUARY 27, 2009

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The Agenda Setting Meeting of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners was held on Tuesday, January 27, 2009, at 7:00 p.m. in the Commission Meeting Chambers at the Oconee County Courthouse.

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Members Present:                                 Chairman Melvin Davis

Commissioner Jim Luke

                                                                        Commissioner John Daniell

                                                                        Commissioner Margaret Hale

                                                                        Commissioner Chuck Horton

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Staff Present:                                       Administrative Officer Alan Theriault

                                                            County Clerk Gina M. Lindsey

County Attorney Daniel Haygood

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                                                            Jeff Benko, Finance Director

BR White, Planning Director

Chris Thomas, Utility Director

John Gentry, Parks and Recreation Director

William White, Project Coordinator

Emil Beshara, Public Works Director

Steve Hansford, Code Enforcement Director

Wayne Provost, Strategic/L-R Planning Director

Rusty Haygood, Economic Development Director

Allen Skinner, Chief Tax Appraiser

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Media Present:                                      Vinnie Williams, The Oconee Enterprise

                                                            Blake Giles, The Oconee Enterprise

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Board of Tax Assessors Applicant:The Board interviewed applicant Hugh Larkey for appointment to the Oconee County Board of Tax Assessors, for a six-year term expiring March 31, 2015.The Board will take action on this appointment at their February 3, 2009 meeting.

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Update by Chief Tax Appraiser:Chief Tax Appraiser Allen Skinner reported on the roles and functions of the Tax Assessors Office, rules and regulations regarding the assessment of property, trends in residential home sales and the affect of current economic conditions.

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Citizen Comments:Mike Power expressed appreciation for Finance Director Jeff Benko’s performance in managing the county’s finances.Mr. Power also spoke on the Chief Tax Appraiser’s report and said the county’s tax digest and property taxes should decrease.


SOME ARTICLES OF INTEREST

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Home builders, buyers may get break

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution January 16, 2009

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/printedition/2009/01/16/housing0116.html

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1-31-09 GA House votes to restore local Homestead Exemption Credits – this year only?

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The Athens Banner-Herald           January 31, 2009

http://onlineathens.com/stories/013109/gen_383313481.shtml

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House acts to restore tax break

By Shannon McCaffrey


1-31-09 Rep Bob Smith calls for Reform of GA Tax System

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The Athens Banner-Herald            January 31, 2009

http://onlineathens.com/stories/013109/gen_383313469.shtml

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Call for new tax system- Smith wants to start over

By BLAKE AUED

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An Oconee County state lawmaker wants to scrap state and local tax systems and start over.

State Rep. Bob Smith, R-Watkinsville, introduced a bill Friday calling for the first constitutional convention in Georgia since 1877……………….

It's hard to predict whether Smith's proposal will gain any traction, especially in a year when it seems like every lawmaker has his own pet tax bill…………………………..


2-4-09 Georgia Tax Reform is badly needed but Constitutional Convention is bad idea

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The Athens Banner-Herald    - February 4, 2009    EDITORIAL

http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/020409/opi_384443953.shtml

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Convention might not improve tax system

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One of the problems with this approach is that it would be subject to the same sorts of political pressures that often hobble the state legislature's attempts at tax reform………………………


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