County Tax Assessors Board approves exemption
By Stephanie Johns
The Morgan County Board of Tax Assessors approved an application for exemption and renewed Traylor Businesses Services for the audit program prior to approving the Error and Release (E&R) list.
Chief Appraiser Chuck Anglin said that the exemption request pertained to a property in a life estate that is being used as a residence for a worker at Camp Twin Lakes. Once the property transfers from the life estate to the camp upon the current owner’s passing, the camp will need to request an exemption then, he said.
John Milliken made a motion to give a one-year exemption and review the case annually. Board members agreed unanimously.
As to the audit program, Anglin said they had earmarked $15,000 for that audit and that last year they had earmarked $15,000. He suggested lowering the amount to $10,000.
Milliken noted that the results of the audit company have been good.
Anglin agreed and said that one findings was quite large: about $200,000.
Moreno added that since they started the audit program in 2004, they have received several findings over $50,000.
Anglin later explained that this is in tax dollars, not value.
Board members voted to set the amount at $15,000.
Zay noted that the E&R list was short. One error pertained to a duplication that occurred with Weyerhaeuser a long time ago. Two other errors pertained to boats that the owners paid taxes on in other counties.
Anglin said the first will receive a refund but that they were not refunding any money for the second two because they can only go back three years. Those two cases occurred in the 1990s and so were beyond that time limit.
Terry Haymore was present to notify the board of his intent to change conservation use from cattle to forestry. Milliken asked Haymore to notify the board again once he has begun or finished planting. Haymore agreed.
Later on in the meeting the board discussed whether a vote was required when someone notifies them about a conservation use change.
Milliken said too many people have come before the board and said they would do something and then did not follow through.
“We’ve never approved a flat field and approved what he was going to do,” he said. “I propose going forward that we acknowledge receipt of a change in use but not approve anything.”
Zay said they must notify the board but that they did not have to vote on them. He added that change requests should be in writing and asked that staff bring those before the board.
Anglin shared how he determines values for conservation easement properties. He noted that the easements are perpetual and irrevocable.
He said he looked at five years worth of sales to determine that he should value those properties at 40 percent of fair market value. He added that a certified general appraiser validated his figures.
There are only 16 of these properties in the county, he said.
“I doubt we’ll be seeing as many anymore,” he said. “It’s not as big an incentive anymore.”
Another thing Anglin shared with the board: proposed changes from the Georgia Department of Revenue.
“It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen,” he said. He asked board members to consider a portion of text describing what applicants should be required to provide when applying for constructed storm water wetland conservation use.
The text under discussion notes that applicants may be required to provide a survey as a legal description of the property. Surveys could run between $500 to $1,000, he said.
“I don’t want an extra expense on the tax payor,” he said. “Especially with the chance the application can be denied.”
Board member John Artz recommended the phrase “or a description acceptable to your local tax office” be added to the state’s proposed wording. Anglin agreed.
Tax assessor/GIS Michelle Salter shared one owner’s concerns about a potential breach. She noted that the property had been split in 1960 but that they recently learned the deed needed to be corrected.
The board determined that if the land swap was done as described, it would not be a breach.
In other news:
• Board members re-elected Ron Zay chairman, John Milliken vice-chairman, and Debbie Moreno secretary.
• They will hold a work session at 9 a.m. next Monday, Jan. 21, to continue working through the list of conservation use renewals.
• Their next meeting will be at 9 a.m. Monday, Feb. 4.
Printed in the January 10, 2013