by Robin Kemp

Property values have increased in Clayton County this year, and your elected officials want a piece of the action to meet their budget calculations. The final millage rates must be adopted and turned in to the state no later than September 1.

The Clayton County Board of Education says it is looking for a 14.746 millage rate increase, which would represent a 9.45% property tax increase “over the rollback millage rate” that would “maintain the current millage rate at 20 mills.”

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners also is calling for a 6.25% property tax increase. Public hearings will take place on August 17 at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. at the Clayton County Board of Commissioners’ Board Room, 112 Smith Street, Jonesboro.

Here’s how it works: Anyone who owns a house, whether or not they live in it themselves, is subject to property tax (unless you live in the house and have filed for homestead or other exemptions). These taxes help pay for things like schools, roads, and government services. (No, they aren’t free.)

The county tax assessor figures out what the fair market value of your house is, but only taxes you on the first 40%. That 40% is called the assessed (meaning taxed) value. (Because the market itself goes up and down, or if your house has had an addition or fallen into disrepair, the actual selling price might be more or less than fair market value–you should hire a home inspector or real estate agent to clarify your individual situation.)

Every $1,000 of that 40% is called a mil. (A mil is worth 1/10 of a penny, or $1 of every $1,000.) Here’s how to figure out the proposed increase.

An example using a $100,000 FMV house

Let’s say you own a home that the county says is worth $100,000:

Fair Market Value: $100,000
Assessed Value: $ 40,000
Mils x Assessed Property Value = Property Tax Due

In this case, the house is valued at 40 mils ($40,000/$1,000) for tax purposes, meaning that you only pay taxes on the first 40 percent of your home’s fair market value. Using the $100,000 house example, you would pay $6.25 on every $1,000 of your home’s assessed (taxed) value:

6.25 x 40 = $250 proposed Clayton County property tax increase

“This tentative increase will result in a millage rate of 14.746 mills for Clayton County M&O, an increase of .868 mills,” according to the county. In other words, the county wants to assess $14.74 and 6/1000 cent for every $1,000 of your assessed property value:

14.746 x 40 = $589.84 total proposed Clayton County M&O property tax

Here’s a chart of county management and operation (M&O) property taxes and millage rates over the past five years. The 2021 column represents the proposed increase:

The language of millage rate increase public notices can be confusing.

Without this tentative tax increase, the millage rate will be no more than 13.878 mills,” the notice reads. “The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $150,000 is approximately $43.40 and the proposed tax increase for nonhomestead property with a fair market value of $500,000 is approximately $173.60.”

In other words, if the Board of Commissioners adopts the increase, people who live in their own home and who have a homestead exemption would see a much smaller tax increase than investors who own properties they themselves don’t live in.

A property tax increase could affect renters if landlords raise rents to cover the tax increase. This could force people with lower incomes to seek less-expensive places to live–just as the COVID-19 eviction moratorium has ended.

It’s also possible that increased property tax revenues would allow the county to provide more services–if the prices of existing services don’t go up and if the tax increase covers the cost of those additional services.

Property tax exemptions save you money

Clayton County offers several property tax exemptions for people who live in their own homes–but you have to apply for the exemption to get it. You can apply online now, but the exemption would only count as of April 1, 2022.

A property tax exemption is basically a discount on the 40% assessed value. Say you took the county’s $10,000 homestead exemption. Instead of being taxed on $40,000 (our example home’s fair market value), you would be taxed on $30,000. That’s 25 percent off, or $442.38 instead of $589.84–a savings of $147.46.

If you are a veteran, over 62, disabled, or the surviving spouse of a law enforcement officer or servicemember killed in the line of duty, you may be eligible for other specific exemptions. You can call the Tax Commissioner’s Office at (770) 477-3311 or e-mail taxcommissioner@claytoncountyga.com for help choosing the exemption that works best in your situation.

If you disagree with the county tax assessor’s valuation of your property, you can file an appeal. Consider that a revaluation could mean higher property taxes if an appeal finds your home is worth more than what’s on the tax rolls. It also could mean that you’d pay less in taxes but could lose value on your home should you decide to sell it. Your best bet may be to get an independent appraisal before filing a tax appeal.

What’s my home’s current assessed value?

You can look up your home’s current fair market value and assessed (taxable) value on the county’s online tax rolls.

How much property tax am I paying now?

You can see your current property tax assessment using the county’s property tax bill calculator.

How much more tax would I have to pay?

But wait–there’s more.

The Clayton County Board of Education says it also wants an increase.

“The Clayton County Board of Education (CCBOE) announces today its tentative intention to maintain the current millage rate at 20 mills. This represents a 9.45 percent increase over the rollback millage rate. When the trend of prices on properties that have recently sold in the county indicate there has been an increase in the fair market value of any specific property, the Board of Tax Assessors is required by law to re-determine the value of such property and adjust the assessment. This is called a reassessment. When the total digest of taxable property is prepared, Georgia law requires that a rollback millage rate must be computed that will produce the same total revenue on the current year’s digest that last year’s millage rate would have produced had no assessment occurred. The budget adopted by the Clayton County Board of Education requires a millage rate higher than the rollback millage rate; therefore, before the Clayton County Board of Education finalize the budget and set a final millage rate, Georgia law requires three public hearings to be held to allow the public an opportunity to express their opinions on the increase.”

Here’s how to figure out how much you would pay if both millage rate increases are approved:

  1. Check your home’s fair market value at the Clayton County Tax Assessor’s website. Say your house is valued at $100,000. The county only taxes you on the first 40%, which is called the assessed value. In this case, the assessed value would be $40,000.
  2. The proposed millage rate is 14.746 mils for every $1,000 of assessed value. If your house’s assessed value is $40,000, that’s 14.746 x 40, or 589.84. If your home had the same assessed value in 2020, it would have been 15.089 x 40, or 603.56.

You can see how Georgia government officials learn how to calculate property taxes, step by step, at the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

Keep in mind that, if you live in one of the municipalities, those entities also levy taxes.

See Georgia’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights:

https://dor.georgia.gov/property-taxpayers-bill-rights

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