As is often the case when Government agencies are unresponsive to citizen's needs the Hart
County Property Owners Association was born out of necessity. In 2002, following a new round
of property reassesments, almost 2000 appeals were filed by property owners with the Hart County Board of Assessors office. Most of the appeals were based on a long standing belief that
"assessed values are abnormally high and are not supported by actual sales data". In addition,
many citizens felt that the Assessor's staff ignored their complaints, an attitude that been "the
norm" for many years. As result, based on a long history of excessive valuations, poor customer service and resistance to change, many property owners had concluded that the County tax assessment system was broken and that a total overhaul was badly needed.
Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "I hold that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing".
Fortunately, a small group of Hart County tax payers took Jefferson's advice and decided that
they had no other reasonable choice than to start a tax rebellion of their own. Thus, on October
18, 2002, a public meeting was convened to create the HCPOA and to elect the following slate
. Jerry Linne - President
. Jay Earle - Vice President
. Andy McLachlan - Treasurer
. Early Executive Board members included: E. J. "Pete" Nagle, John Nagle, Charlie Cantwell, and Robert Techo as special consultant.
The initial focus of the organization was to help property owners understand their property record card, assist them in preparing for forthcoming Board of Equalization meetings, and working with the Board of Assessors to align appraisal values with actual qualified sales. It worked, and by
January 2004 all but 59 of the original appeals had been resolved by the Board of Assessors or the Board of Equalization.
During the period between 2002 and 2007, the organization slowly increased its membership and continued to work on improving the accuracy of assessment valuations as determined by the Board of Assesssors. In addition, HCPOA worked diligently, but with only moderate success, to
improve the quality of communications with the Assessors office.
Then, in 2009, the real estate market collapsed, and and home proces plummeted across the U.S., and the country faced the most serious ecoomic recession in decades. Despite these
circumstances, when the Board of Assessors mailed new tax assessment notices to Hart County's property owners, most of the projected fair market values were inflated far beyond the realities of the marketplace. Not only were actual land and home prices depressed, the number
of sales had decreased to the point that no meaningful comparisons were available. Despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, the Assessors office steadfastly refused to acknowledge that values had declined but, instead, insisted that in most cases values had increased, sometime even doubled or tripled in value. At that point, property owners rebelled again and filed a record 4700 appleals involving almost 30% of the land parcels in the county.
HCPOA answered the call to arms once again and mounted a vigorous compaign to correct once and for all, the underlying problems that had plagued the Assessors office for decades. By working closely with other concerned groups in the community, membership on the Board of Assessors was reconstituted, a new Chief Appraiser was employed, and personnel changes were made in the Assessor's office staff. As a result, a transparent methodology is now in place which links assessed value to recent sales. A more customer friendly environment now prevails and customer inquiries are quickly and professionally addressed.
Today, the HCPOA is a community oriented service organization that serves almost 200 member
families. The membership consists of property owners representing a broad cross section of the community...lake residents, rural land owners, urban dwellers, plus agricultural and commercial business owners. Our activites have expanded to include: (1) active monitoring of the Hart
County School system including issues related to financial management, construction projects,
and property tax usage; (2) active coordination with other property owner groups and local businesses located within the Savannah River basin in both Georgia and South Carolina. Participants also include Federal, Sate and local government officials from both states. Issues of interest include stabilizing lake levels, environmental concerns, recreation facilities, and economic development; and (3) continued contact with the Hart county Tax Assessors office to assure that property assessments remain linked to actual sales values and to changing market conditions. HCPOA also convenes monthly membership meetings that cover a wide range of topics of interest to the community. Admission is free, and the general public is invited to attend.