Pike County Times

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PO Box 843, Zebulon, Georgia 30295. You can donate through PayPal at the link on the bottom of the page. Becky Watts: Phone # 770-468-7583 editor(@)pikecountytimes.com
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September 19, 2023 - 11:00 AM

ZEBULON - The Pike County Board of Tax Assessors met on Tuesday, September 19, 2023 at 11 a.m. at the EMA Building over by Public Works. The Board consists of Jessica Rowell - Chair, Hugh McAleer - Vice-Chair, and members Gary Hammock, Lyn Smith, and Kristen Cudnohufsky. Support consists of Attorney Rob Morton, Chief Appraiser IV Greg Hobbs, Personal Property-Appraiser II/Secretary - Melissa Connell, Appraiser II Danyeal Smithey, Appraiser II Emily Morris, and Appraiser II Dusty Williams.

[Note from the Editor: This meeting is complete. And if any of the Board or staff have a problem with how I worded things on here, let me know and I'll listen to your concern as well as listen back to the tape of the meeting.]

All members of the Board of Assessors were present at the meeting, along with County Manager Brandon Rogers, County Clerk Angela Blount, Tim Ingram, Rachel McDaniel from the Pike Journal Reporter, and Becky Watts from Pike County Times. [Note from the Editor: County Clerk Angela Blount recorded the meeting on a digital recorder and wrote down the motions and votes for Melissa Connell who was sick today.]

I. Call to Order

• Call to Order .... Chairperson Jessica Rowell

11:06 a.m.

II. Approval of Agenda

• Approval of Agenda-(O.C.G.A.-50-14-1-1(e)-Staff recommends approval.

Approved. 5-0.

III. Invocation - Chief Appraiser Hobbs

• Invocation ..... Chief Appraiser Hobbs.

IV. Pledge of Allegiance

• Pledge of Allegiance.

V. Approval of Minutes

• Approval of September 7, 2023 Regular Re-scheduled Minutes-Summary- Staff recommends approval.

Motion to approve. Approved 4-0-1 with Kristen abstaining because she hasn't seen them yet.

VI. Public Comment (w/5 minute time limit per person)

1. Public Comment (with 5 minute time limit).

Becky Watts from Pike County Times asked for clarification on abstaining from the vote on the minutes. Kristen advised that she has not seen them yet so she can't vote on them.

VII. Invited Guests

1. Invited Guest(s): (NONE).

VIII. Chief Appraiser Report

Greg Hobbs advised that the appeal count is at 679. Right at the 8% mark. Said that he hopes to work on this the rest of the week. Hopes to have some news about what will happen with the digest by the next meeting. Getting close to turning the digest over to the county.
676 appeals active.
312 have been sent a 30 day notice.
96 waived.
238 have resolved.

On the September 13, 2023, the Georgia Department of Revenue (DOR) did a digest review on the entire county. It is about 1300 lines. Policies and procedures were discussed. Greg wants to discuss the Sales Ratio Study at the next meeting with the county attorney. There are nearly 10,000 parcels in Pike County.

Pike County's digest is reviewed by the Georgia Department of Revenue (DOR) every three years. 2019, 2022, and 2025. Said that the county increased the values this year and that values will likely be increased in the next two years. He said that the DOR can step in and give a $5 per parcel punishment if the median ratio is below 36% in the county. 29.63% is the ratio for 2022. Greg advised that this could cost the county about $50,000 ($5 per parcel on about 10,000 parcels) or the county could sign a consent order and the DOR give the commissioners advice on how to fix this. Greg cited a lack of staff during 2022, but that doesn’t erase the fact that 2022 is a blemish. Ratio was the biggest problem. Exempt Digest has not been reviewed over the past 3 years.

[Note from the Editor: This ratio is allowed to be between 36% and 44% with a push toward 40%. According to the Georgia Department of Revenue website, state law (OCGA 48-5-7) requires that Georgia property "be accessed at 40% of the fair market value unless otherwise specified by law." (Utility companies pay the county according to those numbers too.) The property is assessed at the county level by the Board of Tax Assessors, and the State Revenue Commissioner is responsible "for examining the digests of counties in Georgia in order to determine that property is assessed uniformly and equally between and within the counties." (OCGA 48-5-340) More info at https://dor.georgia.gov/property-tax-valuation#ad_valorem If ad valorem tax falls below 36%, there can be penalties put on our county from the State of Georgia including and up to a $5 per parcel for Pike County. And that is the extent of my knowledge on ad valorem taxes. I am thankful to all who have answered my questions over the past couple of years.]

We’ve made a lot of changes to the policies and procedures. Kristen will be helping to get the policies and procedures back up to speed. Melissa is sick today.

More discussion on the digest. We have been deficient 2 cycles in a row. DOR only reviewed one year’s worth of data for 2022. In 2019, they only reviewed 2019 data. This year, only reviewed 2022.

Kristen stressed that the commissioners have no jurisdiction over this board. The deficiencies in the digest are our responsibility according to the manual and to the state. Gary said that we don’t have time for all these lectures from you. Jessica reeled things back in and said that we (as in the board members) will review the manual.

There was discussion about the meeting being canceled and then a notification going out to everyone that the meeting would be held at the regular time. Kristen noted that the meeting could have been canceled according to the manual and also said that she will have to abstain from all of the votes today because she has not seen anything that the board is supposed to be approving. She then stressed that the board is not following the manual and wanted to make a motion to end the meeting. Gary stressed that we (as in the other board members and staff) were tired of listening to this and said it very forcefully. Jessica advised that Kristen could make a motion to end the meeting if that is what she wanted to do.

Kristen made a motion to end the meeting until the procedures and policies are understood by the board and that we follow the code and the laws that we took an oath to service the citizens with. The motion failed for lack of a second. The meeting then continued.

[Note from the Editor: This is the nastiest meeting that I have been to in years, and I hope that things will start to settle down from here on out. (This meeting took me back to when I finally got so fed up that I began Pike County Times as a watchdog for the Pike County Commission in 2006.) A couple of thoughts. 1) Kristen's point is well-made because there is a problem when the Pike County Board of Tax Assessors Policy and Procedures Manual is not passed out to new members as a guidebook for their service and is not being used as a guidebook for those currently serving. (And some may be followed but not all.) Side note: There have been no revisions to this manual since 2015 which means that this hasn't been followed for possibly quite some time. Thank you to Kristen for pointing that out, thank you to Greg for bringing copies to the members at this meeting, and thank you to Jessica for pledging that everyone will review the manual. I can see A LOT of friction between a couple of the members because this isn't how things have been done lately, but the rules need to be followed or changed if the members have issues with what is written. 2) I need to stress that personally, as a member of ANY board, I wouldn't give an ok on anything that I haven't read or reviewed. Period. I expect the commissioners to read on everything that is given to them prior to their meetings and to be prepared to give an educated vote in their meetings, I expect the same of Planning and Zoning members, and I expect the same of this Board too. Greg and his staff have their job to do and so do the members of the board. Everyone has to work together for the good of the county, and I believe that all of the members want to do their job of serving the citizens of this county to the best of their ability or they would not have applied for and accepted a position on this board. Following written policies and procedures is a good first step. Showing respect for other board members and learning to pull the wagon in the same direction for the good of the county should grow from this logical first step.]

IX. Old Business

1. Old Business: (NONE).

X. New Business

1. Real Property

a. Approval/Denial of 2023 Appeal(s) with Fair Market Value Revision(s) approval(s)-Staff recommends approval(s).

Greg advised with the exception of two of those, policy says that anything over 30% must come before the board, but Mr. Tom Morton also said in 2014 that the Board can streamline the process to make it easier on the staff. These two properties, Carden was a typo. Someone had typed in the land value (which was less) instead of the total value of $55,779 with accessories and improvements. TMI properties. Increased the value because they were not being charged for the upstairs with the improvement of AC, etc. Everything else is the same and around 10%.

Motion to approve. 4-0-1 Kristen abstained because she has not seen this on paper ahead of time.

b. Approval/Denial of 2023 Waiver(s) with Fair Market Value Revision(s)-Staff recommends approval(s).

Greg advised that people have agreed to end their appeals based on an increase and then their fair market values were lowered. Lyn said that people have agreed to this. I know that we are lowering them to get them passed to present the digest, but we’re not lowering everybody. We went up on everybody and just because they filed appeals we are lowering some of them. All of the property owners are not benefiting from this. I want to make sure that every property owner is on the same playing field and treated the same. If one gets a break, everyone should get a break.

Jessica. Everyone had the opportunity.

Greg. Said that we can't be a 29.63% either. Even with changes made in 2023, this still wasn’t enough for the ratio and need to be higher.

Kristen. If you’re reviewing every parcel in this county every 3 years as required by code, why are we having such a discrepancy now? If every property was reviewed every 3 years per our manual and state code by the DOR, our digest should be up to date. That’s why the DOR reviews these every 3 years. She asked Greg as the Chief Appraiser, Has your staff been using a rotating schedule to view every parcel in the county every 3 years? Greg. No. Kristen. Why? Greg. I don’t have enough staff. We need people in the field. Kristen asked for how often people are in the field. Greg. Only have 1 appraiser in the field and referred to paperwork needed in the office. Kristen. That should be a secretary or clerk. It was pointed out that Melissa is an appraiser and doing the job of the secretary. Jessica, as the chair, tried to pull the discussion that was getting heated back into order. At this point, Gary asked Kristen if she had an agenda, and Jessica and Greg both attempted to pull the meeting back into order and had to speak loudly over Gary.

[Note from the Editor: This is frustration from a new member and as well as frustration from an old member that is incredibly frustrating to watch. Asking that rules be followed isn't "an agenda." I've been accused of this (and much worse) over the years as I have asked for the same thing with the Board of Commissioners. In this particular situation, it is obvious that there are some issues that need to be addressed. Changes won't happen overnight so patience is going to be needed, but changes need to be made in steps that will be obvious to the public as well as the board. Hopefully old and new members can work together to make things better for the good of the county.]

Jessica. There are 18 total and staff recommends approval. Motion to approve. 4-0-1 with Kristen abstaining.

c. Approval/Denial of CUVA New Application(s)- in lieu of 2023 Appeal-Staff recommends approval(s).

Motion to approve based on staff recommendation. 4-0-1 with Kristen abstaining. [Note from the Editor: Part of this was sent to Novus Agenda. Not everything. Getting this information and the accompanying documents online will be good for everyone, but it's going to take time because it is new. The Planning and Zoning Board has been putting their information on Novus Agenda for a little while now, and it is a very good thing. It will happen here too but not all at once.] Greg. That stuff was sent out on Friday to Novus Agenda. Did you not see the CUVA applications? Jessica. Let’s stay on task.

d. Approval/Denial of CUVA Continuation Application(s)-Staff recommends Approval(s).

There is 1. Motion to approve based on staff recommendation. Approved 4-0-1 with Kristen abstaining.

e. Approval/Denial of CUVA Renewal Application-Staff recommends Approval.

There is 1. Motion to approve based on staff recommendation. Approved 4-0-1 with Kristen abstaining.

f. Approval/Denial of FLPA Application(s)-Staff recommends approval(s).

Just 1. Forest land.

Lyn. If we can’t function without Melissa, shouldn’t we have a backup? Danielle is out too. Motion to approve. Approved 4-0-1 with Kristen abstaining. [Note from the Editor: Melissa is priceless and has served in this office for more than 30 years. She was missed today more than most days though she is always missed!]

Motion to approve based on staff recommendation. Approved 4-0-1 with Kristen abstaining.

g. Approval/Denial of 2 2023 Non-Disclosure Applications.

Applicants have met all criteria. Motion to approve based on staff recommendation. Approved 4-0-1 with Kristen abstaining.

h. Approval/Denial of 2023 (S1)-Regular Homestead Exemption Application- -Staff recommends approval.

House finished in 2022. Eligible for homestead exemption for 2023. Approved 4-0-1 with Kristen abstaining.

2. Personal Property

a. 1. Approval/Denial of Motor Vehicle Appeal(s)-TAVT Fee(s)Revisions-Staff Requests Board consideration(s): a. Collier-2015 Chevrolet Silverado Truck. b. Fields-2012 Kia Soul.

Motion to postpone. Approved 5-0.

Discussion that there are two different agendas, and she needed the info from the extended agenda. (More on that in a minute.)

b. Approval/Denial to delete account for 2023-per verification from Tax Commissioner Donna Chapman and Staff-Staff recommends action on account as listed below: a. Delete duplicate ’23 Commercial Account#17072(DCT Truck & Auto Inc-GA license dissolved 2016).

Delete from 2023. Duplicate account. Motion to delete the 2023 duplicate commercial account. Approved 4-0-1 with Kristen abstaining.

3. Executive Session

a. (NONE).

XI. Public Comment

1. Public Comment(with 5 minute time limit).

CM Rogers. Hopefully clarify some of the confusion. Said that Kristen had questions about the review years on the sales ratio versus all the years in between. He reviewed this and said that the Board started making incremental changes to make things right. 36.03% in 2018. 34.09% in 2019. Review year so immediately made changes to fix this. 38.77% in 2020. After that, there were staff issues and property sales started skyrocketing in 2021 when the ratio went down to 33.16%. We were not quick enough to fix that in one year. Then it went to 29% last year. Chalk up to sales and unforeseen amounts in property and housing sales. No one could have predicted that property would be worth twice what it was a year ago. If we overestimate, it’s not good for the citizens either. It was a catch 22 situation.

Lyn. Melissa is sick. Danielle is out. Where is the status with the new hire? Can't talk about personnel in open session.

Becky Watts, Pike County Times. Asked if things are going on Novus Agenda so the public can see them. Greg confirmed this. He wanted to make sure that the public understands that they have no problem with everyone seeing what they are doing, but right now, they are working on getting the appeal count taken care of so the county can set the millage rate. He thanked County Clerk Angela Blount for helping them get this started and said that they will continue. I told him thank you for their work on this. He also praised Melissa for her work on this. Everyone in the office has agreed to learn this so there will be cross- training as well.

I then said that I have a newspaper because the commissioners weren't following the rules and even now, I watch to make sure that the commissioners are following the rules. And I would greatly appreciate it if everyone would read their manuals and follow the rules.

County Clerk Angela Blount said that Melissa is doing a phenomenal job. It takes a little time to learn Novus Agenda, and the reason that there are two different agendas is because they have to prepare two. One is typed into Word and then Novus is different. She said that if the Board of Tax Assessors will allow her, she will work with Melissa on this. The two agendas will match up by the time that they are done training on this.

She then made a suggestion that they add names on sections like where there are appeals so if a search had to be done to find out when an appeal was done, it would show up in a search of the minutes. She said that this was an easy fix and not more work on Melissa.

Angela just attended a management conflict class. She said that defense mode kicks in when people feel being attacked, but if we can approach things in a different way, we’ll get so much more done because you're all here for the same reason. It's to make the county better. She also said that if Kristen didn't see everything on Novus Agenda to reach out.

Kristen responded by saying that she is asking questions that are not unheard of or unorthodox. Said that she is not here for an agenda. Only reason she is here is to help the citizens and that's the only reason she has put in countless hours trying to learn her job. She believes that she was appointed because she has a specific knowledge basis that can help. She said that she has asked for this information as a citizen and was told by at least one member that we don't get paid to do that. She said that attitude is toxic at best when their job is to serve the people.

Gary. Said again that we didn’t come here to get a lecture from you.

Jessica brought it back around and said that she understood Gary's frustration, but we can't do this. Also said to Kristen that you don't have to tell us over and over again. You told us once, we've got it.

XII. Board Members Report

Hugh made a motion that Greg or his designee to get 3 proposals to have the county flown. We need to make sure it’s right because the maps are wrong. Whether it’s a drone or a plane. Hasn’t been flown in 10 years. Approved 5-0.

XIII. Attorney Comments

1. Attorney Comments.


XIV. Approval to Adjourn

1. Approval to Adjourn.

Motion to adjourn. 11:51 a.m.