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New state laws taking effect
Property, boat taxes among issues tackled
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Forsyth County News


Georgia welcomed the new year by implementing the last of laws written in 2010.

While most of Georgia’s new laws became effective when signed by the governor in July, a few stragglers didn’t become effective until Jan. 1.

District 23 state Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, said the delay gave “affected parties the opportunity to react and prepare for the necessary changes that may have to happen in order to implement the law change.”

Among the most noticeable changes for Forsyth residents will come in March, when all county homeowners will receive an assessment notice for their home, including an estimate of taxes based on the previous year’s millage rate.

Previously in Forsyth, only homeowners whose property was reassessed, about 25 percent, received a notice.

Forsyth Tax Assessor Mary Kirkpatrick said with mailings increasing from about 20,000 to 80,000, she’s grateful for the extra time to comply.

“It gave us time to make some computer changes and to do the things we had to do to accomplish the things this law requires,” she said. “We don’t know how the public is going to respond ... we’re going to try to mail the notices earlier because we don’t know what the repercussions will be.”

Hamilton said because homeowners were only notified when their values increased or decreased, “many people didn’t really pay attention to their valuation and by the time they got their tax bill, it was too late to appeal.”

“During this economic downturn, there’s been a big concern that property assessment values have not decreased at the magnitude their market value has,” he said. “I encourage property owners to really look at this closely.”

Kirkpatrick said the new law will likely lead to an influx of people wanting to have their property reassessed.

“We could get as many as 9,000 appeals next year,” said Kirkpatrick, whose office saw nearly 5,000 appeals in 2010. “I don’t know how the staff is going to deal with it.

“The new law is definitely a positive for taxpayers, but until the public gets used to seeing this and this becoming an annual event, the first year is going to be interesting.”

Another law toughened reporting requirements for lobbyists.

While no cap was placed on how much lobbyists can spend, the new law does require more disclosure.

District 9 state Rep. Amos Amerson, R-Dahlonega, said it “requires them to report more often how much they are spending on gifts for legislators -- taking them out to lunch and things like that.”

Amerson said the bill is important, but won’t make much of a difference as lobbyists are already regulated.

“We have some of the toughest lobbyist laws in the whole U.S.,” he said.

District 27 state Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, called the law important, saying “we need transparency in government to see where the lobbyists are spending their money."

"It’s good they’ll have that measure of accountability," he said.

Murphy also is pleased with the boat inventory law, which extends the exemption on taxes boat dealers have to pay on their inventory until the end of 2013.

The tax started two years ago and reflects “the economic time we’re in,” Murphy said.

“We’ve had a lot of boat dealerships go out of business up here simply because of the economy. People can’t afford to buy boats,” he said. “Somebody’s going to pay taxes on those boats when they’re sold, but I’m not sure we need to be charging dealers inventory taxes now with the economy like it is.”

The 2011 legislative session begins Jan. 10.

Murphy, Hamilton and Amerson will return as Forsyth delegates, along with newly elected Mike Dudgeon, who will replace Tom Knox as District 24 state representative and Steve Gooch, who will take over for Chip Pearson as District 51 state senator.