County's property valuation: Residents can contest land value

CONYERS - Beginning this month, Rockdale County residents can challenge the assessed value of their property by filing a residential property tax return with the county Tax Assessor's Office.

Every year from Jan. 1 to April 1, residents have the opportunity to state what they believe is the taxable value of their home.

Rockdale County Chief Appraiser Lamar Sims said his office processes a steady number of residential property tax returns each year out of the 35,037 parcels of land assessed by his office. He said the property tax returns are one step in the process of determining the value of property leading up to mailing out property assessment notices in May.

"This is not contesting the value that we have. This is just you, yourself, declaring what your property is worth," Sims said. "When the taxpayer comes in, we let them talk to the appraiser to explain what the value they say their property is. The appraiser at that time goes over with them what information we have and makes sure it's all correct."

In Rockdale County, fair market sales of homes - those sold by one individual to another - dropped 14 percent last year, while the percentage of foreclosed sales doubled.

Sims said his office bases property value solely on fair market sales and that despite the high number of foreclosures in 2008, property values have leveled off.

"It's flattening out, and we have not had that many more actual foreclosures coming in," Sims said. "Yeah, they are still coming in, but it's not in the great numbers we had last year."

More than 1,990 legal advertisements for foreclosures were filed in 2008 in the Rockdale Citizen, the legal organ for Rockdale County. In November, 182 foreclosures were filed and 139 were filed in December. As of Tuesday, however, 209 had been filed this month.

Sims said the ripple effect on property values could be felt as lenders continue to sell off foreclosed homes, which are then resold as fair market sales.

Forms for filing a property tax return are available at the Board of Assessors office, located at 981 Milstead Ave., across from Pine Street Elementary School. Sims said residents can access county tax records on their property and view recent sales of nearby property on the Board of Assessors page of the county government Web site, www.rockdalecounty.org.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.