Citing an October 2012 Progress article where the Board of Tax Assessors signed off on approximately 300 property value appeals, local resident James Atkins told current board members at their meeting Thursday that comments from the chief tax appraiser and board members back in October prompted him to appeal the value on his home.
“I’m a taxpayer in Pickens County,” Atkins said. “I’m not here today to try and resolve the issue I have with my property tax. I’ve already spent countless hours on this and I’m scheduled to appear before the board of equalization. First off I’d like to say that I can pay my taxes. I’m thankful that I’m financially able to do that. And I don’t have a problem to pay my taxes. I consider it my duty to pay my fair share and I’m happy to do so.”
Atkins made his comments, he said, in response to an article written by Progress Editor Dan Pool dated October 18, 2012 where Chief Tax Appraiser Roy Dobbs was quoted as saying the biggest reason for the high number of appeals last year was due to people’s inability to pay the taxes.
The story read: When asked what reasons people are citing when seeking lower values, Dobbs said, “the ability to pay is the predominant reason – unfortunately. It’s not about the value, it’s that they just don’t feel they can afford to pay it.”
In the article, Dobbs said there were between 900-1,000 appeals filed on property values last year, higher than the usual 150-300 annual appeals.
In speaking Thursday to the board, Atkins said both Dobbs’ comments and Board member Glenda Thompson’s comments upset him.
“I can afford to pay my taxes. When I read this article I had no idea that a taxpayer could appeal based on their ability to pay. I’d never heard that before.”
In the 2012 article, Thompson, in response to Dobbs’ comment that people who were filing appeals couldn’t afford their taxes, questioned that reasoning since some people bring attorneys to represent them in the hearing. If they can afford the attorneys they can pay the taxes, she was quoted as saying.
Thompson, at this past Thursday’s meeting, said she was “aghast” when she read that in the paper last year. Thompson said she was referring to a particular case when attorneys’ fees had to be more than the taxes themselves.
Atkins said when he read that particular quote, “I’m not even going to say what I feel about that. That triggered my appeal.”
Atkins, who ultimately hired a private appraiser to value his home, said he felt the high number of foreclosures in his area was a key reason he felt his value should be lowered. The private appraiser assessed his home and property value at $76,000 lower than the county’s value.
“She (the appraiser) came out and I told her that I’d appealed my evaluation and I told her I wanted a fair and honest appeal of my property. A few weeks later I received the appraisal. She had done a lot of work.”
Atkins paid $220,000 for the home and 3.75 acres in 2005. The county’s assessed value for the property is $201,000.
Although Atkins expressed frustration that his appraisal and documentation had yet to be considered, Chief Field Appraiser Stephanie Gooch said office staff has visited Atkins’ property to update photos and the office is currently in the process of an active appeal on the parcel. Gooch said they are reviewing a discrepancy between the county’s square footage and that of the private appraiser.
“Another thing is the (private) appraiser used 2012 sales alone to establish her value and with us being mass appraisers we’re looking at sales in 2011 and 2012,” Gooch said.
Atkins said the home across the street sold for $85,000 this year. Gooch responded, saying that home was coded on county records as an estate sale and those are not used in standard value assessments.
Dobbs said the process is moving along for Atkins’ appeal and county personnel will be going out to do the field appraisal work. If Atkins is not satisfied with the findings, Dobbs said, the case would be forwarded to the Board of Equalization for a hearing.
Dobbs did point out there was a reduction in the value of Atkins’ property the previous year.
Board Chairman Brad Bledsoe asked for a follow-up on the case at their next meeting.