Dougherty chooses to end appeal, pay fine

ALBANY -- The Dougherty County Commission unanimously approved a measure Monday that would end an appeal of a fine issued by the Georgia Department of Revenue for property assessments that were too low.

The fine, about $66,000, was issued after a 2006 sales ratio study showed that Dougherty County's property tax assessments fell below the acceptable state threshold.

"They told us that our assessments on property here were too low and then issued the fine," Dougherty County Tax Director Denver Hooten said.

The study prompted the board of assessors to conduct revaluation of property in the county that would eventually adjust the 2006 levels -- which were at 34.7 percent -- to 39.2 percent in 2007.

Hooten said that she was disappointed that appeal had been dropped but acknowledged that at some point the legal costs would've been more than the fine itself.

"I feel comfortable that the process is done," she said. "I think that they were right to challenge it and that the county did due diligence, but at some point you have look at it and make sure you're using tax dollars fairly."

After jumping to 39.2 percent in 2007, the assessments dropped to 36.8 percent in 2008. The state gives counties a threshold between 36 percent and 40 percent to avoid being fined.

The fine, coupled with the cost of the revaluation itself, brings the total cost of pulling the assessments back up to state standards at roughly $1 million.