FLPA audit results mean small refunds to county taxpayers
By Stephanie Johns
Talk of audits dominated the most recent meeting of the Morgan County Board of Assessors.
Chuck Anglin, chief appraiser, shared details of the Forest Land Protection Act (FLPA) audit results. He said that Georgia Department of Revenue audits all counties with FLPA forest land covenants, which totals 25,000 acres in forest land protection in Morgan County.
He noted that WinGAP, which is appraisal software, applied a 3 percent increase to FLPA participants when in fact a moratorium should have prevented that increase. Because of this unintended increase in 2010 and 2011, Anglin said that FLPA will issue small refunds to FLPA participants – the largest refund in Morgan County will be for about $90 – as well as to the county. The unintended increase occurred statewide and was attributed to a program error.
Regarding WinGAP, Anglin said he wants to write a letter to the county IT Department informing them that it has personal information, including Social Security numbers, details about personal property and business accounts, and needs to be handled with utmost importance. He added that no one with millage rate setting responsibilities should be able to view this information.
He then spoke about the challenge involved in estimating property behind locked gates or when the Board of Assessors has been denied access by the property owner. He said that when they are unable to gain access to property they will leave door hangers.
Robert Bailey, assistant chief appraiser, later explained that the orange door hangers provide the appraiser’s name and ask that the property owner call their office.
Chairman Ron Zay asked if they could request access through the Sheriff’s Department and Anglin said that was no longer an option as the law had changed to allow property owners to deny access to their property.
Zay asked whether or not aerial photographs helped with property question and Anglin said that they couldn’t see anything on the photographs.
Zay then asked about policies for estimating such properties. Anglin said that they would estimate the property in question based on other properties. Bailey said they could estimate the property at 100 percent of the value of what a similar house would go for. The property owner could appeal the estimate but he would have to allow them onto his property to more accurately evaluate it.
Traylor Business Services, Inc. audits companies that have personal property in the county. According to Anglin, the county has spent $74,000 and received $540,000 from the audit program Traylor conducted since 2004.
Board member Marcus Schuchs said, “Apparently we found a whole lot of stuff that wasn’t being taxed.”
Anglin said some items might have been misreported or classified incorrectly. He noted that Traylor helps the personal property owners out by showing them how to correctly report their property.
Zay asked about outstanding appeals and Anglin said that there were 25, 10 of which belong to one individual. Anglin said they would get the appeals done in no time and that the last one will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 29, the latest time allowed by law.
In other news:
• Bailey shared details about those manufactured homes in the county that are failing to display appropriate tax decals.
The process for having tax decals on a manufactured homes changed and Bailey said they are re-educating these home owners as to their new responsibilities. Decals were to be in place as of May 1.
• There are approximately 30 homes that don’t have mobile home decals in the county.
Bailey added that they had cleaned up the mobile home digest tremendously and that now those mobile home owners who are delinquent are only delinquent one to two years.
Anglin said that the mobile home digest was harder to keep up with than automobiles while Schuchs said that aerial photographs had helped.
Printed in the September 27, 2012 edition