The tax assessor's office has been doubly busy this year with all of the property in McDuffie County up for reassessment. Despite the huge job, this year's tax digest was completed and in the hands of the tax commissioner by the first week of August, when it was due.
This is the second year in a row that the digest has been completed on time. In 2002 and 2003, the digest was at least three months late, but improvements made at the McDuffie County Board of Assessors office have helped the work get done nearly in time for the state's deadline.
"We've been adding more and more information into the computers, and with the staff changes that we've had, with additions there's been several things to facilitate being able to do it sooner," said Chief Appraiser Katherine Perry.
And McDuffie County Tax Commissioner Sandra Whitaker is pleased with the results of those improvements.
"I'm real proud of them. They're working real hard to get us to a normal due date," Mrs. Whitaker said. "They've worked real hard for the last two years to get us that way."
Officials are also pleased with the results from this year's digest. Property values in the county as a whole went up a little more than 8 percent. That means more money goes to the school system and the county government which rely on property taxes to operate.
The increase in revenue has both the Board of Education and County Commissioners holding the required public hearings to announce a tax increase even though the millage rate has remained stable.
"Even though the millage rate is not going up it's going to generate more tax dollars because you're going to be paying a higher value than you did last year, in some cases," Mrs. Whitaker said.
A press release from the school board states, "The budget tentatively adopted by the McDuffie County Board of Education requires a millage rate higher than the rollback millage rate. Therefore, before the McDuffie County Board of Education may finalize the tentative budget and set a final millage rate, Georgia Law requires that three public hearings be held to allow the public an opportunity to express their opinions on this increase."
A millage rate rollback would produce the same revenue on the current year's digest that last year's rate would have produced, minus the reassessments. In the tight budgetary times since Sept. 11, 2001, local governments have needed every additional cent.
According to Ms. Perry, growth in the digest comes from two categories, natural growth from things like new construction and reevaluation growth from changes in assessed property values. County Manager Don Norton said 59 percent of the digest growth was due to reevaluation, leaving 41 percent for natural growth.
"That's more of an indicator of your economic conditions," Mr. Norton said. "I think that's a pretty good sign right there."
The school board's hearings are set for Aug. 18 at 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. and Aug. 25 at 6 p.m. at the McDuffie County Board of Education office in Thomson.
Commissioners will hear from the public on Aug. 16 at 9 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. and Aug. 23 at 6:30 p.m. in the Grand Jury Room at the McDuffie County Courthouse.
After approval by both boards, and adoption of the millage rate, the digest will be sent to the Georgia revenue commissioner for approval. Mrs. Whitaker said because of the timely digest, property tax bills should be out on time, by Oct. 20 or earlier. Tax payers then have 60 days to pay their bill.