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Property tax situation unprecedented
Reassessed values drop, but overall digest gains
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Forsyth County News


* Homeowners have three ways to appeal

In her 34-year career, Forsyth County Tax Assessor Mary Kirkpatrick has never seen anything like it.

Nearly 21,300 properties were reassessed this year, and while there were some individual increases, in total assessed value the properties decreased by $14 million.

“I have never seen a negative reassessment — ever,” she said. “You’ve always had enough growth or positive reassessment that countered any negative area.

“And now just to see negative reassessments, as a rule, is just really unprecedented. It does say a lot about the times ... it shows the impact the economic conditions are having.”

Despite the $14 million drop in reassessed properties, the preliminary overall tax digest — the total value for all properties in the county — rose from $8.89 billion to $8.93 billion.

Kirkpatrick attributed the increase to some residential and new commercial growth. Still, the increase of about half a percent is “nowhere near the 10, 12, 14 percent growth we’ve been averaging a year.”

The county school system will take it.

Dan Jones, the district’s finance director said the system’s preliminary budget assumed a 5 percent decrease from last year. So even with only a marginal increase, officials are “happy with it.”

“We had said during the budget meetings that if the digest came in flat, which is pretty much what it did, that we would be fine,” he said. “This will put us pretty much where we’ll have a little bit of a surplus, if these are the actual numbers.”

Jones presented the new digest to the school board Tuesday, showing the school’s budget could see as much as a $927,000 surplus.

Board member Mike Dudgeon described the relatively flat digest as the “best-case scenario.”

The commission hasn’t set the county’s budget yet, but Chief Financial Officer Bill Thomas said officials weren’t “expecting any increases.”

“We have the luxury of waiting until we get the digest before we have to actually budget,” he said. “But our preliminary budget is based on no increases in any revenues over 2009. The budget will essentially be another $84 million budget as the 2009 budget is.”

Any surplus in the tax digest likely would go toward the county budget’s bottom line, Thomas said.

About a quarter of the reassessments came at the request of homeowners. The other properties, Kirkpatrick said, were reassessed due to new ownership or changes, including a deck, pool or finished basement.

Though nearly 11,800 reassessments declined, the values of about 5,800 properties rose.

“There were some increases, but there was a reason for the increase,” Kirkpatrick said. “There were no increases because of inflation.”

E-mail Jennifer Sami at