The Georgia Supreme Court next week is scheduled to hear a Hall County Board of Tax Assessors challenge to a local court ruling in favor of five marina operators on Lake Lanier.
Those marinas successfully appealed their 2015 tax assessments, which had risen substantially from 2014. The biggest jump, according to a high court summary, was a 3,200 percent increase for Chattahoochee Parks.
The increase came as the county changed the nature of the assessment.
"Before 2015, the docks and additions were valued and taxed separately as personal property, such as automobiles," the court summary stated. "After the change, however, they were included within the value of the companies’ leasehold interest and valued and taxed as attachments to the realty."
The marina companies, which also include Westrec Properties, PS Recreational Properties, March First and AMP III-Lazy Days, initially appealed the assessments to the Hall County Board of Equalization. That board upheld the assessments.
The marinas appealed that ruling on January 8, 2016. The legal sticking point came a few days earlier when House Bill 202 went into effect.
"One change was a requirement that within 45 days of a taxpayer’s notice to the superior court that it planned to appeal a decision by the Board of Equalization, the Board of Tax Assessors had to schedule a 'settlement conference,'" the summary reads.
In the marinas' case, the board did not issue a notice of settlement within the 45-day window, according to the summary.
"The statute says that if at the end of the 45-day review period, the board of tax assessors elects not to hold a settlement conference, 'then the appeal shall terminate and the taxpayer’s stated value shall be entered in the records of the board of tax assessors as the fair market value for the year under appeal,'" the summary stated.
The board of tax assessors refused to change the values and scheduled a settlement conference. When no settlement was reached, the case went to litigation, with a judge ruling in favor of the marinas. The order was for the 2014 value of the properties and reimbursement of the marinas' attorney fees.
The board of tax assessors is appealing to the high court, arguing, "...the General Assembly violated the constitutional separation of powers doctrine by divesting the judiciary of its jurisdiction – or authority – over a tax appeal," the summary stated.
The Georgia Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the county appeal at its 2:00 p.m. session on Tuesday.