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A Column by the Editor

Assessments puts spotlight on Assessor, property values

web posted October 4, 2006

COLUMN – Where there is smoke, there is usually a fire. That saying can obviously be applied to the latest round of reassessments by the Edgefield County Tax Assessor’s Office with property owners seeing increases of property values exceeding 100% since the last reassessment five years ago. Mount Vintage Plantation, which has seen sky rocking selling prices for property in the past few years is somewhat understandable. A lot that went for less than $80,000 a few years ago is now going for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Assessing a grandmother over $400,000 for a small home in Johnston is another matter.

County Council Chairman Monroe Kneece stated it was up to the property owner to challenge the assessments in an attempt to place the responsibility upon the property owner. “Last time we had over 2,000,” object to assessments Chairman Kneece said. Obviously that number has grown in the latest reassessments.

A closer look into Edgefield County taxation shows a propensity to fudge values of property values in order to bolster tax revenues. Taxes are billed at the “highest and best use.” This practice was started by County Administrator Wayne Adams. However, it applies to all property taxes nonetheless.

The average car owner can see a reduction in property taxes just by appealing the value placed on their vehicles. This has to be done before the due date of your tax payment. A simple way is to get a quote of the value of your car from an accepted appraiser. One most widely used is Kelly Blue Book, which is available online.

Once you have priced your vehicle take it to the County Auditor and your bill will be adjusted saving as much as 40% in taxes.

The same holds true in real estate, but the process is different.

Most objections filed by property owners are approved. The county is not interested in sticking it to the informed as much as they are sticking to the uninformed. Many homeowners are elderly, they get a bill, and they pay it. Others, less interested in politics until it hits home, have escrow accounts to pay property taxes and pay little attention to assessments.

That is what the county counts on to bolster tax revenues, the uninformed and the uninterested. Face it, if 10% of those over billed for taxes complain the county is more than willing to acquiesce the bill to gain a huge over billing to the other 90%. The few that complain get their tax bills settled while the other 90% of taxpayers get taken to the cleaners.

The basis of all the problems rests on the County Council and the Tax Assessor’s Office. If so many mistakes are being made, intentionally or unintentionally in property values, the root of the problem lies in the Assessor’s Office, not the taxpayer.

The major problem is that most people have no problem paying their “fair share” in taxes. They just want to make sure the share they are paying if fair. With the assessments sent to residents, fair was omitted and the share was increased.

Perhaps the County Council might want to look into who is doing the “assessing” and the certifications and experience they have before laying the blame on the county residents for the huge “misunderstanding”.

I have never challenged a tax bill that was not discounted before paying the taxes. If, in just my cases alone, I am always right, where does that leave the county in its policies?

Where there is smoke there is usually a fire.


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