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Tuesday September 1st, 2015 2:00AM

Hall Co. group pushes for law to cap property taxes

By Staff
GAINESVILLE - Owners of lake property in Hall County say they will not give up when it comes to placing a limit on how much they are charged each year for property taxes.<br /> <br /> A group called "Georgia Tax Cap" has been gathering signatures on a online petition to present to lawmakers with the goal of having a new state law that would limit the amount property taxes could increase in a given year.<br /> <br /> Group spokeswoman Berly West Baker said the effort was prompted by Hall County's reassessment of lake properties this year. <br /> <br /> On average, property owners in the county saw an increase of about 39% in assessed value, but Baker said the bulk of those who faced increases were lake property owners. Plus, she contends most of the increases were much higher than the average - some as much as 300% higher.<br /> <br /> "I personally have not met anybody with under a 50% increase in their tax bills, and I just don't know a household that can absorb that kind of increase," said Baker. <br /> <br /> She said members of the group have approached area lawmakers about authoring a bill to cap property taxes; some have been responsive, others have not.<br /> <br /> "It's going to be an uphill battle," said Baker. "You know, Florida has a cap at three-percent, New York has a cap at two percent. They all do it a different way - some do a cap on the value, some do a cap on the tax."<br /> <br /> Baker said Georgia lawmakers can look at what other states are doing and model a Georgia law after some that already are in place.<br /> <br /> Bobby Hulsey, who is a member of the Hall County Tax Assessor's Board, agreed that there should be some sort of limit on annual tax increases, but he said there was no choice this year but to equalize lake property values with selling prices.<br /> <br /> Hulsey said Chief Appraiser Steve Watson was alerted to the discrepancy when his office got notice of two lake lots that sold in the $400,000-range, but had been assessed for years in the $150,000 range.<br /> <br /> "He started looking at the other lake properties and found that the values had not been changed since he [originally] left Hall County in 1992 as far as the land values," said Hulsey.<br /> <br /> The situation with valuation is of little comfort to Baker, however.<br /> <br /> "Everyone in this situation knew what was coming down the pike," said Baker. "...everyone other than the homeowners."<br /> <br /> <i>Berly West Baker and Bobby Hulsey appeared this week on WDUN's Morning Talk.</i><br />
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