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Record number property tax reassessment appeals filed

Calvin Ferguson and Tommy Wangness share a dilemma.

Neither of the Thomson businessmen can figure out why their property tax reassessments have risen as much as they have. And because they can't, they have filed appeals with the McDuffie County Board of Tax Assessors, hoping to get answers and relief from having to pay much higher property taxes this year.

They are not alone.

Nearly 700 properties have been appealed in the county, which is a record number, according to McDuffie County Chief Tax Appraiser Katherine Perry. Owners had a period of 45 days to file appeals if they weren't satisfied with figures shown in notices sent them through the U.S. Postal Service several weeks ago.

"We've never had this many people file appeals before," Mrs. Perry said.

Part of the appeal load was fueled by the reassessments, but part of it was also fueled by residents trying to make a political point.

"I probably passed out as many as 60 appeal forms myself." said Mr. Ferguson, owner of Home Laundry Cleaners in Thomson. "I did it because what they're doing isn't fair to me and I imagine it isn't fair to a lot of property owners either. This is an injustice to many of us in business in Thomson and McDuffie County."

With an unstable economy, property owners are now confronted with how to pay their tax bills by Nov. 24 - the deadline without avoiding penalties and interests. Staff members in the office of Tax Commissioner Sandra Whitaker recently mailed the tax bills.

Part of the problem, Mrs. Perry said, was many properties - especially commercial tracts - had not been properly evaluated in years, leaving values deflated.

"It's all a matter of reevaluation, based on costs and a review of local market adjustments," said Mrs. Perry.

For Mr. Ferguson, it had been 10 years since his property at the corner of Johnson Avenue and West Hill Street had been reassessed.

"They re-assessed my building from $185,000 to $403,467 this year," said Mr. Ferguson. "Back in 1998, it went from $155,000 to $185,000. This will be a tremendous increase on me, financially speaking."

The owner of C & C Tire Service, Tommy Wangness, said his tax assessment property more than doubled.

"It was shocking when I saw that it had risen that much," he said. "It's never been assessed that high before. I could never sell this building for what they've got it assessed at."

Mrs. Perry said her staff is reviewing each appeal, and has found some errors so far.

"We would have preferred to have found these errors before the notices were mailed out, but we're not perfect," said Mrs. Perry, whose office is serving as a lightning rod for public criticism of the reassessments.

"Like anything, it takes time," said Mrs. Perry. "We have three different teams going out into the county to check properties. They are working as hard as they can, but with this many appeals, it's going to take time."

Web posted on Thursday, October 02, 2008

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