The tornado that struck Catoosa County less than two weeks after the deadline for filing income taxes for 2010 has delayed mailing assessments for 2011 property taxes.
The county commission has that asked state officials grant 30-day extensions for filing deadlines to allow government offices more time to prepare budgets, set a millage rate and post assessments.
"Our office is forming final edits," said Dale McCurdy, chief appraiser for the Catossa County Tax Assessors Office. "Assessments should be sent out this week or early in July."
McCurdy said assessment notices will look different this year due to passage of SB346 during the 2010 legislative session.
The new law requires a statewide standard assessment form, guarantees the right to timely appeal and mandates that an estimate of taxes due be included with the assessment.
"This is totally different than what we've done in the past," McCurdy said, regarding those estimates. "People should understand that we are required to use prior year tax rates when calculating estimated taxes based on the proposed assessments."
The Property Tax Assessment and Appeals Reform Bill (SB346) passed in 2010 made more than 50 changes to state law including:
o Requirement that every property owner receive annual Notice of Assessment, which guarantees right to appeal.
o Every Notice of Assessment must contain estimated property tax.
o Expansion of appeal time-period from 30 to 45 days.
o Alternative streamlined appeal option for property valued in excess of $1 million.
o Automatic taxpayer victory on appeals when government fails to respond within 45 days.
o Requirement that all relevant sales, including distress sales, be included when determining fair market value.
o Requirement that only "current use of property" be used in determining fair market value.
o Taxpayer must be given access to all data used in determining fair market value.
o Sales price establishes fair market value for next tax year.
Declining values due to a soft housing market - "It's been about 10 years since we've seen anything like this," McCurdy said - will affect revenue collections. That particularly will be noticed in some neighborhoods, often in newer subdivisions, that were affected by the sub-prime mortgage crisis but is fairly evenly spread throughout the county, he said.
McCurdy said market values, although trending down, have been nowhere near as extreme as those in speculative markets such as Atlanta.
Having a common form makes it easier for those owning property in more than one county to understand their tax bills, he said.
Another important provision, particularly during a time when so many foreclosed properties are being sold at less than their previous mortgage value, is that the most recent sales prices can be used as the fair market value for the next tax year.
As an example, McCurdy said, "The sale price for a current year would be the maximum taxable value for the following year digest, so a home that sold out of foreclosure in 2010 for $100,000 would be the taxable value on the 2011 digest even though the calculated fair market value might be $120,000."
And some Catoosa property owners will realize radical reassessments due to tornado damage, he said.
Those who lost homes will have the value of destroyed buildings removed from their assessments for taxes. While only the land's value will appear on the assessment notice, pre-tornado values are available from the assessors office for filing insurance claims.
Fair market value losses due to the tornado are estimated at between $22 million and $25 million. Those losses combined with appraisals that are lower overall are anticipated to result in the county's tax digest being about 5 percent lower than last year, McCurdy said.
While the assessment forms themselves will be noticeably different, "most values will be close to the same," he said.
For questions about the assessments call the Catoosa Tax Assessors Office at (706) 965-3772.