Burgess Wants a Tax Freeze

Coincidentally, while I was complaining about property taxes the other day, Becky Burgess in the District 137 contested GOP primary, was sending out a mailer and press release on a plan to freeze assessments.

From her release:

Becky Burgess announced today the central plank of her campaign platform will be legislation to allow the voters to freeze property tax assessments for all purposes in Macon and Bibb County.

The property tax assessment freeze is already law in most of the biggest counties in Georgia, including Cobb, Gwinnett, Cherokee, Forsyth, Chatham, and Savannah. Even small rural counties like Ware and Pierce have enacted this legislation. However, the voters of Bibb have never been given a chance to vote on this legislation.

The Macon Telegraph ran a report this weekend suggesting such a plan would be unconstitutional, but there are, as Burgess indicated, a number of counties with the plan already.

Now, here’s my one concern — you’d have to be very careful how you do this. Take California for example. There, when a person buys a house the taxable value is frozen until sale. The problem is that when the house is sold the tax value is reassessed and, as a result, can sometimes skyrocket more than 100% of the original assessment.

Doing a tax assessment freeze could cause some people difficulty in selling their homes when people realize what they will be paying in property taxes. If, however, the tax freeze is more a restraint on the percentage increase, then it could work very well.

If nothing else, it is the first substantive idea to come out of this election.

17 comments

  1. Booray says:

    The Freeze works fine in Forsyth County. Not sure where all this “unconstitutional” stuff is coming from.

  2. Demonbeck says:

    Check out the Stephens-Day Bill. It hasn’t done a thing to slow down real estate sales or prices in the Savannah area.

  3. Tommy_a2b says:

    Lee Hawkins, Candidate for State Senate District 49 (Casey Cagle’s old seat) Hall and Jackson County proposed the same thing a few weeks back.

    http://www.leehawkinsforsenate.com/issues.html

    It was his 1st platform proposal. I hope more people catch on to this idea.

    What ever happened to, “Life, Liberty, and Property”?

  4. Emily says:

    I am pretty sure that these tax assessment freezes in Cobb and other counties only allows the voters to do this if they want to and are not actually in effect for the most part. (I am positive about Cobb)

    Also, Rep. Ed Lindsey (Fulton Co) tried to pass an amendment this session (HR 162) which would cap the increase in a home’s assessment (for taxation purposes) at 3% a year or the rate of inflation. Needless to say, the resolution didn’t pass but there was some good conversation and I personally did a ton of research on the issue. The main concern of mine is that ultimately, when it comes down to it, the question of whether this will actually reduce property taxes. While it eliminates the “backdoor approach” that assessors would rather use (as opposed to increasing the millage rate which is considered a more outright tax increase), there is still an opportunity for property taxes to continue to increase. From my research, most are skeptical about the effectiveness of a limit or freeze alone. What is needed is both the limit in increases in assessment values and either an overall spending limit or an overall property tax levy limit which specifies the maximum annual increase in revenue (which over half of the states have).

    Property taxes are definitely a problem and from some of my research, I found many homes in Cobb county whose assessment values increased 30, 40, 50% and more (usually over 2 – 3 years since that is generally the time between re-assessments)—which is absolutely ridiculous!

    I just don’t think a simple freeze or even a cap will cut it. I really think that in order to fix Georgia’s property tax problem we are going to need a governor who is willing to really push the issue. I don’t think the legislature is ready to do this on their own. They didn’t this year—mainly because there were too many questions about its effects and effectiveness.

  5. Booray says:

    Emily,

    I’m not sure where you got your research, but the freeze works really well (and very straightforwardly) in Forsyth County – and I think most of the freezes are like Forsyth:

    1. No matter how high your assessment goes, your homestead exemption increases the exact same amount to cancel it out.

    2. This means your property taxes cannot ever go up because your assessment went up. They can only be increased by a millage rate increase.

    It’s that simple, and it works. In Forsyth it only applies to county taxes (not school taxes), which is a problem in my opinion. However, county tax assessments are absolutley frozen, no doubt and no loophole.

    Booray Bussey

  6. I wanted to clear up some falsehoods raised by the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia in the Macon Telegraph story on Saturday.

    First, the Property Tax Assessment Freeze is definitely constitutional. In fact, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled overwhelmingly (by a 6-1 vote) in 2003 that the Assessment Freeze in Muscogee County was constitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear and overturn the Georgia decision. I have no idea why municipal officials continue to claim the Freeze is unconstitutional. Perhaps they really WANT it to be unconstitutional so they can keep taking our tax money through the back door, but wanting something to be unconstitutional does not make it so when the Supreme Court has authoritatively spoken.

    Second, the Assessment Freeze will not result in the potentially bad situation described by Erick because it does not actually freeze the assessment – it only creates a “floating

  7. 4ofspades says:

    Becky,
    I do not believe that the City of Atlanta has any type of assessment freeze. The freeze that was put in place was for Fulton County taxes and not the City of Atlanta.

  8. 4ofspades,

    This link is from the official Georgia Department of Revenue website. Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to find the listing of places with the “Homestead Valuation Freeze Exemption.

  9. LINDA says:

    A question for Becky:

    Personal Property Tax Returns for small businesses that have little or no inventory, and a limited amount of furnishings and equipment could be eliminated. Very small businesses, including my small business, pay on average $200 per year for this time consuming tax report that comes due March 1st each year.

    What is your opinion on legislation that would elimate personal property tax reporting for very small businesses? The cost/benefit is just not there because the payroll and benefits paid to a government employee to work through these time consuming reports barely produces the revenue stream to pay the employees. When you factor in the number of clerks that could be eliminated state wide, you would be eliminating future costs of retirement. It is past time for looking at ways to cut unnecessary paper work in our local governments, and small businesses need tax relief to stay in business.

  10. hccitizen says:

    The “restraint on the percentage increase” mentioned is NOT a taxpayer-friendly approach. It simply provides another back door tax on property owners.

    Taxes in Henry are now 4th highest in metro-Atlanta. Without better services… I cannot see justification for allowing year-after-year tax increases just for the privilege of living in a particular county. Yes we have a Freeze but thanks to our schools & water authority & hospital percentages my taxes still go up annually.

    I say let taxpayers vote in a freeze that is 100% comprehensive.

  11. BBecton says:

    Assessment freezes ignore the root problem. The root problem is local municipalities, just like all governments, have a constant thirst for a higher and higher percentage of citizen’s money. How about restricting how much a municipality can increase its gross tax take each year? Maybe restrict it to not changing anymore than the combination of inflation and population growth? That way an indivudual’s tax bill could not grow any faster than inflation.

  12. leftymacon says:

    Dale Washburn was interviewed on the “Herbert Dennard” show (on teh cable access channel). He slammed – well, very politely! – the tax freeze. He said very directly it would not cut anybody’s taxes, just freeze the assessment. The millage rate can go up.

    He also said it would hurt young families trying to buy a house.

    I have a hunch it’s going to show up on his website soon.

    ————-

    Mailbox overflows with mailers from Peake, Horne, and Burgess. I’m getting annoyed.

  13. ConcernedTeenager says:

    But what about the millage rate increase? Governments are getting bolder in what they will do to stay in the black- I believe it’s been mentioned before (by Emily) that a millage rate hike is an “outright tax increase.” What’s to stop THAT from happening?

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