Taxpayer Board of Equalization appeals from 2010-2012 may soon move forward

Thousands of Spalding County taxpayers who have requested a hearing before the Board of Equalization (BoE) with regard to their property taxes continue to await that procedure.

The process for appeals requires property owners to first appeal to the Tax Assessor’s Office. If no resolution is reached, the appeals are certified and sent to on to the BoE, which is under the authority of Spalding County Clerk of Court Marcia Norris. Although all the outstanding appeals were previously certified for BoE hearings, due to extensive delays – some dating back to 2010 – an agreement was reached allowing the Tax Assessor’s Office to regain control of the appeals and seek to reach agreements with taxpayers. That process was completed this spring.

“I’m sure some of them were satisfied, but the bulk was recertified to her (Norris),” said former Chief Appraiser Tim Whalen, who retired Tuesday after 37 years of service to Spalding County. “We have been certifying them in bunches.”

According to Kathy Hollis, who is a Tax Assessor’s Office appraiser and secretary to the Board of Assessors, the first batch was certified April 2.

“I try to certify 125 to 150 per week, but it just varies,” Hollis said. “I haven’t wanted to overwhelm her (Norris’s) office, so I’ve tried to certify a number that can be heard weekly, for one board.”

Hollis said that as of June 5, 1,654 appeals had been certified and forwarded to Norris for BoE appeals. However, she said that on that same date, the Tax Assessor’s Office had only received notification of 17 appeals being scheduled for BoE hearings, and those were from a batch certified the week of May 28.

“To date, that’s all I know that’s been set. I haven’t received notice that anything else has been set. There is also more remaining. We have two more weeks we’ll be certifying, and we have just over 2,900 total, and that’s for tax years 2010, 2011 and 2012,” Hollis said, explaining that many of the remaining certifications will involve property owners who are disputing multiple years’ tax assessments.

Whalen said he also has no additional information regarding the long-awaited taxpayer appeals.

“All I know is that the clerk has started scheduling the appointments,” he said. “Once we certify, then we can only hope they’re scheduled. It’s out of our hands. Hopefully she got it done this time.”

According to Georgia statute, Norris has 15 days from the date of certification to notify taxpayers when they will appear before the BoE, and that appearance must be scheduled no less than 20 days, but no more than 45 days, from the date of certification. According to that statute, hundreds of appeals are again outside the statutory guidelines for the BoE appeal process.

Spalding County Manager William Wilson said officials are hopeful this longstanding issue will soon be resolved.

“Marcia has been encouraged to move forward in an expedient manner in handling these appeals,” Wilson said.

In 2012, Norris and Wilson agreed that a miscommunication had resulted in a delay in filling an additional clerk’s position that will be necessary for her office to handle the BoE appeals. That position was funded in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget, which covered July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013. However, the position was filled only two weeks ago.
“She (Norris) has hired for the position and I’ll be speaking to her again this week about more (appeals) batches to come,” Wilson said.

Editor’s note: Norris could not be reached for comment on this story.

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