2012 FROM THE REAR VIEW MIRROR
By almost any measure, 2012, our Association’s 10th anniversary, was a transitional year. We finally have a fully functioning Board of Assessor’s office with a professional staff, a rational process to establish fair market value, and an attitude that is open, friendly, and customer service oriented. The backlog in appeals has been eliminated, the tax digestsfor 2010, 2011, and 2012 are essentially completed, and the overall property assessment process is returning to normal. Our work of observing, supporting and interacting with the Board of Assessors will continue in 2013 but our expectations are that the worst of this unprecedented dilemma is over.
Early in 2012, as our intense activity with the Board of Assessors diminished, we were able to focus more attention on two other areas of interest to Hart Countyproperty owners…(1) the Board of Education and (2) county wide economic problems caused by persistent low water levels on Lake Hartwell.
As many of you know, approximately seventy-five cents of every dollar that you pay in property taxes goes directly to the Board of Education to partially fund operationof the Hart County School System. These funds, in conjunction with proceeds from SPLOST, comprise approximately fifty percent of the Board of Education budget. Because of the large impact of school taxes on our members, the Board felt that more attention and oversight should be directed toward the actions of the school board and the school administration. Consequently, beginning in January, one or more HCPOA Board members attended every monthly meeting of the school board. In addition, we met privately with school board and administration officials on several occasions to discuss specific points of interest. One important outcome of these contacts was our concern over a long standing school board policy that prohibited direct public input prior to a vote on motions before the Board. At our request, that policy was overturned and public input is now solicited except for student and staff issues. Our focus on School Board operations will continue in 2013, with particular emphasis on reviewing procurement policies.
While persistent low water levels on Lake Hartwell may be perceived by some as affecting mostly lake property owners, in reality, it’s a much broader issue that impacts almost every citizen in the County. When the Lake level is down significantly, lake property values and home sales drop, tourism decreases, income from rental properties is reduced, businesses in the area experience lower sales, sales tax revenues go down, and millage rates go up to compensate. Since property owners have a large stake in solving this problem, our Board has been in touch with the Lake Hartwell Association in South Carolina and with other stakeholders who sharea common interest in stabilizing the lake at a level much closer to full pool. The problem is complex: it involves political and economic considerations, numerous State and Federal regulatory agencies, well funded environmental groups and special interest lobbyists. Meanwhile, the difficult task facing the Corps of Engineers is trying to balance increasing demand for water vs. a persistent drought and a climatological trend toward lower annual rainfall in the upper Savannah River basin.The HCPOA Board plans to increase its activities related to this problem in 2013, by acting as a catalyst to form a coalition of interested groups in both Georgia and South Carolina and by encouraging more active participation by local government officials.
As usual, we’ll keep you informed about our progress throughout 2013 via regular monthly membership meetings as well as through e-mails when necessary.
By Ritch Vandeventer for Executive Board of HCPOA