published Monday, February 18th, 2013

Little change seen in Hamilton County property tax

How to calculate your tax

Assessments are based on a percentage of fair market value. Residential property is taxed on 25 percent of its value, commercial/industrial on 40 percent and public utilities on 55 percent. Tax rates are expressed as an amount per $100 of assessed value.

To calculate your tax, divide the assessed value (from your reappraisal notice) by 100, then multiply the result by the tax rate.

For a $100,000 house, the calculation is this: $25,000 / 100 = 250 x $2.76 = $690.

Property owners in Hamilton County may see some change to their property tax rates in the coming fiscal year, but it's not likely to be much of one.

Assessor of Property Bill Bennett said Friday he expects county property tax will hang around its current 2.7652 rate, which was set in 2009.

"It might go up a little, or it might go down. But, no, I don't think it will shift too much," he said.

Bennett is basing his prediction on preliminary property reappraisal figures, but he cautioned that the hard numbers will not be in until assessment appeals are completed by the Board of Equalization in June.

He also noted that the county's 10 municipalities may impose their own, separate property tax.

The first reappraisal notices were mailed Friday to residents in the southeastern portion of the county, and letters will continue to go out to residents and businesses over the next two months.

The good news is, if the majority of appraisals are on the mark, few are appealed. If recent trends toward rising property value continue, the tax rate may decline.

The state requires the reappraisal process to be revenue-neutral. If overall property values change, the tax rate must be adjusted to produce the same amount of revenue collected from the previous budget year.

In this case, that's just over $260 million, or 40 percent of the county's $643 million budget.

Simply put: Higher overall property values yield a lower tax rate -- and vice versa.

"It has to produce the same amount of money, according to state law. They won't let you get a windfall even if values go up," Bennett said.

The county can benefit from property added to the rolls since the 2009 reappraisal. Bennett did not have an exact figure for possible new growth Friday.

Hamilton County Commission Chairman Larry Henry said Friday that whatever tax rate is ultimately determined by Bennett's office will be the rate adopted.

"I don't see any movement at all, or suggestion, on the commission that we will increase taxes," Henry said.

Tax is assessed on a percentage of a property's appraised value -- 25 percent for residential, 40 percent for business and 55 percent for utilities -- and is expressed per $100 of value.

Historically, the county tax rate has remained between the current rate -- a 17-year low -- and 3.51, according to Bennett.

In 1996, the rate was adjusted from 3.22 to 2.93. In 1999, the commission increased that rate to 3.51, then it was readjusted to 3.06 in 2001.

Other than that, the rate has only been changed in reappraisal years, going to 2.89 in 2005, 3.15 in 2007 and 2.762 in 2009.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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