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AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Take a poll: Does Georgia need a cap on property tax hikes?

Property tax assessments haven’t made big headlines for a while, with the market well into recovery from the housing bubble bust of the 2000s.

Now, when county tax assessors hike taxable values, homeowners have less grounds to argue that their resale values aren’t really rising.

But Georgia property tax activist R.J. Morris says homeowners are nevertheless being harmed. In his neighborhood, Old Fourth Ward, some appraised values have doubled and tripled in a single year. That means an abrupt increase in tax bills or monthly mortgage payments. Unless the tax hike comes with a big raise at work, that's a wallop to most any family's finances, Morris says.

Morris says there should be a limit on how much tax appraisals can go up in a single year: 3 percent, in line with the national appreciation rate average.

State Republicans tried to pass such a measure six years ago, but couldn't come up with a two-thirds majority needed to pass a constitutional amendment. Instead, the state imposed a freeze on increases, now expired. In a post last summer on the Peach Pundit blog, former House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey said a cap is still needed: 3 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.

Morris once had the ear of former Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers and collaborated on some taxpayers' rights measures, many of which have been rolled back since Rogers' abrupt departure from politics. Morris, still looking to lobby lawmakers, has an online survey going to gauge whether there's widespread support a property reassessment cap.

What do you think? A necessary measure to protect homeowners' wallets? Or a terrible idea that would affect resale values and harm schools and local government services, such as police, fire protection, parks and libraries?

Click here to take part in Morris' survey. You can also take our version below.


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About the Author

Johnny Edwards is a member of the AJC’s investigative team, focusing on the private sector and state and federal regulation. He has worked at the newspaper since 2010.