Confusion lingers over Habersham County tax refunds


It’s been one week since it was revealed that missed tax appeal hearing deadlines would cost Habersham County a sizeable chunk of change in the form of tax refunds. One week in, there is confusion about exactly how much the county will lose.

The Habersham County Board of Tax Assessors letter dated November 30th asserts that the county must refund $333,828 due to appeals not being heard in a timely manner for 2019 and 2020. However, based on figures Now Habersham has obtained from the tax assessor’s office, that does not appear to be the case. According to those figures, for the tax years of 2019 and 2020, the county and school board, collectively, must refund approximately $79,897.  

According to figures provided to Now Habersham by the tax assessor’s office, the total amount of refunds for 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022 would be $263,887, nearly $70,000 less than what was originally asserted in the board of tax assessors’ letter. And even with that, the 2022 refunds are currently being questioned. 

Assessments were mailed out in late June, notifying property owners of their property assessments for their 2022 property taxes. Once those assessments were sent out, the property owner had 45 days to appeal the assessed value. Once filed, the appeal must be heard within 180 days. The latest hearing date would be in February of 2023. It is unclear where in the process the 2022 appeals are for a Hearing Officer. According to the Tax Assessor’s office, the 2022 refund amount would be approximately $99,602.

For years, there have been complaints by citizens and real estate agents that commercial properties in the county have been undervalued. Contrary to those complaints, a few commercial property owners have “asserted” that their property assessment is “overvalued.” 

In 2020, Walmart’s listed Fair Market Value for its property in Cornelia was $9,475,970.  That year they appealed their assessment and asserted that their property value was $5,929,600, 37.4% lower than fair market value. Walmart’s “assertion” stood since their appeal was not heard by a Hearing Officer within 180 days. This will result in the county and the school board having to refund approximately $23,305 to the retailer.

Scenic View Healthcare appealed its assessment for 2019 and 2020. However, their property value assertions changed from one year to the next. 

In 2019, Scenic View asserted that their property value was $2,500,000, approximately 4.1% less than fair market value. In 2020, Scenic View asserted that their property value decreased to $1,700,000, approximately 34.8% less than fair market value. Their refund for 2019 will be approximately $1,140, and $9,746 for 2020. Baldwin will have to issue a refund separately for those tax years as well.

Fieldale appealed three of its properties – Cornelia processing plant, BC Grant Road Warehouse, and feed mill – to a Hearing Officer as well. In their appeal, they asserted a 25% reduction from Fair Market Value on those three properties for 2020. This will result in a total refund from the county and school board of approximately $40,412. Cornelia will have to issue a refund for one of the properties as well. 

The table below represents the eight appeals that were referenced in the letter from the Board of Tax Assessors to Habersham County Clerk of Court David Wall.

These recent revelations bring into question whether commercial properties are undervalued or overvalued. According to Walmart, Fieldale, and Scenic View, their property assessments are overvalued.

Now Habersham reached out to the Tax Commissioner’s office regarding the status of the pending refunds. Habersham County Tax Commissioner June Black-Warren tells us she has not received any affidavits from the Tax Assessor’s office for those refunds. They can not be processed until she does. Black-Warren says she has reached out to the state for guidance on applying interest to those refunds.

Baldwin and Cornelia have already received affidavits from the Tax Assessor’s office.  

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