Property Tax Explanation

Unhappy with your property tax.? How is the millage rate determined? What can you do about your property taxes? 

There has been a lot of concern recently about property tax assessments going up even though the millage rate actually decreased. Politicians bragged about the fact that Union County had one of the lowest if not the lowest millage rate in Georgia. This was to make the taxpayer feel good even though he had to pay a higher tax than in previous years. This was a smokescreen to mollify the taxpayers.

The county commissioner does not set the millage rate. The millage rate is a calculation based on two other numbers. These two other numbers are 1) the total assessed valuation of all the taxable property in Union County and 2) the total budget to paid for by the property tax. The assessed valuation is performed until control of the County Tax Assessor who normal hires an independent company to perform the assessment. The assessed values are controlled by the economy and are affected by inflation, supply and demand, etc. and are basically out of control of the county commissioner. The budget to be paid by the property tax consists of two parts, the county budget and the school district budget. Thus, there are two milage rates calculated but they both use the same total assessed valuation in their calculations.

The county millage rate is  and the school millage rate is . The County Budget is controlled by the County Commissioner and the School Budget is controlled by the School Board.

If the total assessed valuation is constant from one year to the next, the millage rate will go up if the budget increases, the millage rate will go down if the budget decreases, or will stay the same if the budget does not change.

If the budget is constant from one year to the next, the millage rate will go down if the total assessed valuation increases, the millage rate will go up if the total assessed valuation decreases, or will stay the same if the total assessed valuation does not change.

Now, the only part of the county millage rate calculation that is controlled by the County Commissioner is the county budget. The only part of the school millage rate that is controlled by the School Board is the school budget. Therefore, if you feel that your property tax assessment is to high, you are really saying that the county budget and/or the school budget is too high. The only way to lower your tax assessment is to lower the budget.

If you were to petition to have your assessed valuation lowered and were successful, the total property tax collected would be lowered and the county and school board would run a budget deficit.

If you feel your property tax is too high, you need to study the county budget and the school budget and find ways to lower these budgets or hold the budget while the total assessed valuation in the county increases. The budget is the key item in determining the actual tax billed per thousand dollars of assessed valuation.

The taxpayer cannot simply complain that his property tax is too high without really understanding the budget that is paid for by that tax and whether that budget is reasonable and only includes items that are truly essential. Complaining without action is useless. Get involved and understand where your property tax money is spent and whether the budget that this tax supports is a reasonable budget.

Vince Peterson - February 2023

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