School board to continue tax appeals

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By Tia Lynn Lecorchick & Jamison Hooks staff writers

After receiving one of the lowest Sales Ratio Percentages in the State, Business Operations Manager Libby Whitaker traveled to Atlanta to appeal Morgan County’s 34.83 percent and successfully raised that number to 36.21 percent.

This appeal earned the Board of Education (BOE) $123,000 in state funding. Whitaker says she’s confident taking it one step further.

The original ratio study ranked Morgan County in the bottom five counties across the state for property sales compared to their assessed values.

Whitaker said the appeal process had worked and “34.83 percent is where we started and through the appeals process we were able to bring it up to 36.21 percent which is an increase in state funding of $123,000. I am recommending that we also go through the arbitration process which is the next step,” said Whitaker.

The arbitration process will cost the BOE a maximum of $10,000, which Whitaker says is a small risk that could yield big rewards. “In order to reach the $10,000 additional savings we only have to move the ratio from 36.21 percent to 36.33 percent which is a minute increase. I feel very confident we can move it at least that much,” said Whitaker. The approximate $10,000 would cover the cost of arbitration and lawyer fees.

Whitaker explained to the BOE her goal is to reach 38 percent. “If we can reach 38 percent through the arbitration process we will receive an additional $145,000 in state revenue,” said Whitaker. Whitaker will report back to the BOE at next month’s meeting regarding the results. The appeal not only benefits the BOE, but the county as well.

In addition to the $123,000 in state funding for the BOE, the county will yield an estimated $10,000 in savings. According to Chuck Anglin, any county that does not earn a ration between a 36-40 percent could be fined $5 per parcel.

Morgan County has over 12,000 parcels, which would equal over $60,000 in fines had the ratio remained at 34.84 percent. After the appeal process, which involves the addition and deletion of disputed sales, the sale ratio was upped to 36.22, returning the county’s ranking to an acceptable level, albeit, a bare minimum level.

“It puts the county in a semi-better position,” said Chuck Anglin, chief tax appraiser for the county. “There are different variables the auditors look at, such as properties that had unusual financing. There are different variables that should have been looked at closer by the state and were not.”

The original study addressed the statewide equalized 100 percent adjusted property tax digest report for school tax purposes. This ratio represents a study conducted on 114 properties that sold in Morgan County within the last year.

From the 114 chosen properties, a ratio is formed from the property’s assessed value and the price the house is actually sold for. “If it was upped to 38 percent, that could mean about $150,000 for the school board, and $30,000 for the county,” estimated Anglin.

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