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Tax digest out earlier this year

This year won't be like the last few years for the McDuffie County Board of Assessors.

After turning in the tax digest in mid-December last year and in November the year before, this year's digest has already been sent out to the county commission and the school board. The deadline was Aug. 1.

Even after filing for an extension, the Board of Assessors should have the digest turned in to the Georgia Department of Revenue in Atlanta before the new Sept. 1 deadline. The Tax Assessor's office finished the 2004 digest in record time.

"Over a period of time, the changes that we have made have all fallen together," said Chief Appraiser Katherine Perry of the smoother year her office has had.

The tax digest predicts the amount of property taxes that will be collected according to the assessed property values in the county.

The McDuffie County government and the school system rely on the property tax revenue outlined in the digest to finalize their budgets. Both are pleased to have a jump start on the process this year.

"The importance of that is to be able to get the tax bills out so they're due this year," said County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton. "It makes it a whole lot easier for us if they do go out on time."

Having the digest completed early is even more important to the school system. Last year, the late digest delayed an inevitable millage rate increase past the state deadline to receive $150,000 of equalization money.

Local legislators successfully fought to get $100,000 of the funding restored to the school system, but that didn't stop school officials from being frustrated with the process. This year it's not the timeliness of the digest that is causing problems though.

"We're glad to have it," said Superintendent of Schools Mark Petersen. "I'm not crazy about it being as flat as it is."

This year's digest is showing a $30,000 drop in revenue compared to last year's digest, Ms. Perry said. The budget approved by the Board of Education for this year predicted a 2 percent increase in revenue, according to board Comptroller Tom Smalley.

"We're going to have to squeeze a little more and do what we can to hold the line," Mr. Smalley said.

According to Ms. Perry, the reason for the dip in revenue is all the exemptions passed down from the state.

Taxable property in McDuffie County is up by nearly $704,000 this year. But exemptions on the assessed value of properties this year are higher by more than $4.5 million from last year's figure of $61.5 million. Ms. Perry said that figure significantly impacted the amount of revenue predicted in the digest for 2004.

Now that the 2004 digest will soon be on its way to approval by the revenue commissioner, the 2005 digest is already in the works. A total reevaluation of property in McDuffie County is taking place next year which will increase the load on the Board of Assessors. Ms. Perry said that is why she wanted to be finished early this year.

Web posted on Thursday, August 12, 2004

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