Senator John Albers (from right), R - Roswell, Rep. Chuck Martin, R - Alpharetta, House Speaker Pro-Tempore Jan Jones, R - Milton, and Senator Fran Millar, R - Atlanta, at a press conference Tuesday on the final passage of legislation addressing Fulton County tax exemptions. A number of homestead exemptions that passed for North Fulton and the schools will let people improve their homes without losing the lower assessed value. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Home improvements addressed under north Fulton assessment fix

Property owners in north Fulton and those who pay taxes to the Fulton County schools have the chance to vote on laws that could mean lower property taxes.

They’re similar to provisions that already exist in Sandy Springs and for homeowners who pay Fulton County taxes. But the new laws would go a step further for residents in Alpharetta, Mountain Park, Milton, Johns Creek and Roswell and those who pay taxes for the Fulton schools.

The bills, which are awaiting the governor’s signature, would limit assessed values from going up more than 3 percent each year, regardless of the actual increase in property values on a home. They would use as the base year 2016, 2017 or 2018 — whichever year has the lowest assessed value for each home.

VIDEO: Previous coverage on this issue

The state’s revenue commissioner rejected Fulton County’s tax digest, and the department of revenue says must comply with stringent state law.

Additionally, homeowners would be able to improve their homes without changing that base year. That means residents could make additions to their homes without having their entire property reassessed at fair market value. Instead, the property would remain assessed at the reduced rate, plus the value of the improvement.

“They can improve the property without the peril of losing the frozen valuation,” said Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta. “We thought it was a good, fair compromise.”

That’s not the case in Sandy Springs or for county taxes, where an improvement to a home causes the whole house to be reassessed at fair market value. Any addition would mean that homeowners have a new base year, when the addition is made, instead of the year the home was purchased (or when the homestead exemption went into effect).

The north Fulton and Fulton schools laws will be on the ballot in November and are among several that were proposed to help residents cope with jumps in their property values. There are others in Atlanta that are in the works, and Martin said some south Fulton legislators have been discussing their own, similar legislation, but no bills have been proposed yet for residents in those cities.

But even if approved by voters, the new laws would not go into effect until 2019. Property values, and property taxes, are expected to be higher in 2018 as Fulton County catches up with values that had been appraised too low for a number of years.

“It will be a real incentive, when people get their tax bill this year, to vote for the referendum,” said Sen. Fran Millar, R-Atlanta.

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The AJC's Arielle Kass keeps you updated on the latest happenings in Fulton County government and politics. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

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