Tis the season for property tax! Are you excited? Me too. Most tax bills are due the first of December, plus or minus a few weeks. I thought I would completely bore my readers with a comparison of local property taxes in my reading area. The calculations seem like simple arithmetic but they get much more complicated once you get under the covers. Bust out your slide rule, here we go!
Most folks know the basic formula, which is
40% of Fair Market Value = Assessed Value
Millage Rate times Assessed Value = Tax
It all starts with the county assessor’s office. Strangely enough, the assessor doesn’t directly set your assessed value. Confused yet? The assessor determines your fair market value. This should be somewhat close to your home’s value, but more realistically the number is taken out of thin air. You can dispute this value, but that’s another article.
The general assembly sets the formula for determining assessed value, simply 40% of the market value. State, county and city lawmakers determine various millage rates, which are expressed in dollars per thousand of assessed value. Crafty lawmakers can manipulate your overall tax by fiddling with any of these three variables. And with three variables, it all might seem fairly simple, but oh contraire! Your tax calculation is much more complicated because of…
Ever go to Kohl’s when they’re having a sale? The price of the shirt you want is jacked up only to be knocked down by the sale discount. I view homestead exemptions like that. It’s especially true in the city of Alpharetta where they have both a higher millage rate and homestead exemption. Their overall tax is inline with their peers. More on that later.
Homestead exemption is enormously popular with voters. It’s available for property with owner occupants, aka the home you live in. There are also exemptions for blue hairs senior citizens and veterans, but I won’t go that deep into the math. The exemption simply knocks dollars off the assessed value of your property. Sounds simple, right? Well not so fast. The highest exemptions typically only apply to things like county and city operating costs. Schools tend to have much lower homestead exemptions, usually $2,000. Taxes going towards bond repayments are not eligible for exemptions. For example… Taxpayers in Alpharetta will see homestead exemptions vary from $35,000 for the city’s taxes, $25,000 for Fulton County, $2,000 for Fulton schools to no exemption for Alpharetta’s bonds. Confused yet? Asleep?
Here’s some raw numbers I put together. Imagine a home valued at $300,000. Let’s plop that guy down in each of north Fulton’s cities, and just for giggles let’s also put it in unincorporated Forsyth and Cherokee counties. After all is said and done with the millage rates and different exemptions, what do the taxes look like? Check out this table.
Property Tax Comparison
||City Millage Rate
||Tax on a $300k Home
I’ve done my best to estimate these numbers based on information I’ve gathered and from looking at actual tax bills. It is possible I’ve made errors.
A few of my notes about each city…
Alpahretta has an amazingly high $35,000 homestead exemption. Next year it will go to $40,000. Unfortunately that exemption doesn’t apply to their bonds, approx 1.5 mills. The city’s high exemption basically knocks down their slightly higher millage rate.
As best I can tell, Roswell doesn’t offer homestead exemption for owner occupants. They have a handful of options of seniors and vets, but that’s it. Their overall tax suffers as a result.
Johns Creek and Milton
Both cities offer $15,000 in homestead exemptions and have managed to keep their millage rates low since incorporating. Johns Creek bills their city tax through Fulton County in a single bill. They are the only city I mention that does this.
I mention this tiny city and their stratospheric 11.78 mills only to make an example out of them. Their asinine lawsuit is costing taxpayers dearly. Mountain Park’s overall millage rate is nearly that of the city of Atlanta. They offer only a $4,000 homestead exemption. I’d put up with a lot of lake silt before I paid 11.78 mills.
Fulton’s base millage rate is 29.033. They offer a $25,000 homestead exemption that will go to $30,000 next year.
Unincorporated Forsyth and Cherokee
Forsyth has amazingly cheap property tax. So low is their millage rate that the measly $8,000 homestead exemption they offer isn’t much of a factor. Forsyth also has a sales tax credit cooked into their overall millage rate. Taxpayers get a 2.644 mill reduction. Nice! Fulton offers something similar but is so puny it isn’t worth mentioning.
Cherokee county is also low but not nearly to the extent as Forsyth. I mention these two counties only to show how expensive living in Fulton is relative to its neighbors.
So there you have it. Do you think property taxes are reasonable in north Fulton’s cities? If we were to secede from Fulton, do you think a new Milton County could significantly reduce the 29.033 base millage rate?