Hundreds have already appealed the property tax reassessments in Aiken County. (WRDW-TV / Aug. 30, 2011)
News 12 at 11 o'clock / Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011
AIKEN, S.C. -- Aiken County residents upset over property taxes had the chance to voice their issues during a public hearing Tuesday night.
Hundreds have already appealed the property tax reassessments. They are required by the state every five years. But many are confused as to how 60,000 property values went up in a struggling housing market this year. That is twice the number of properties that went down in value.
One by one homeowners stepped up to the mic, facing Aiken County administrators. They come from all over sharing a common question: Why is my property value so high?
"Every five years we are required by state law to do reassessment," said Scott Singer of the Aiken County Council.
The property assessment is based off of Tax Act 388 passed in 2007. It says increases have to be phased in gradually. Yet, your taxable value can not go above your market value.
Singer said some people have seen their property values go down and they still got reassessment notices showing their values have gone up, causing confusion.
"It is confusing even for me," he said. "Folks have the opportunity to appeal and I would encourage anyone who believes that the market value of their property is less than that they received on their notice to go ahead and make that appeal."
Homeowner Susan Gillespie plans on doing just that. She wants to know how the value of her property was determined.
"In the market that we are in now, no homes are selling," she said. "How did they figure these values?"
Property assessors say market value is determined by comparing sales or by a mass appraisal process. Many feel the new assessments are inflated.
Some people asked property assessors to show them the buyer if they think their property is really worth the value they appraised if for.
"We looked at sales in the market place from 2009 and 2010," said Property Assessor Mark Sapp. "If you disagree with the market values that we have your home set at, then you can look at sales from those same years as we did."
That is exactly what Gillespie did because she is concerned about having to pay more.
"Depending on the millage might do next year or the year after what will happen is unknown," she said.
Aiken County leaders say the assessment is not to raise taxes, but to make sure everyone pay their fair share.
"The purpose isn't to raise total taxes, it just determines who is going to pay what and we want to make sure everyone pays their fair share and only their fair share," Singer said.