LEESBURG – Lee County was formally recognized by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs as a Broadband Ready Community at Tuesday’s County Commission meeting. Gina Webb, representing the Georgia Broadband Development Initiative, made the presentation while pointing out the county was one of only two in Region 10 to achieve this recognition.
“This states that Lee County is ready for high-speed internet throughout the county,” Webb said. “You are telling these private companies that you are ready for expansion, that you are taking broadband and the access to high-speed internet and putting it in the development plan.”
These plans are aimed at removing any barriers between, state and local governments as well as private service providers to make broadband a countywide reality. Commissioner Luke Singletary said he hoped that the designation not only helps spread broadband access throughout the county but clarified for Lee County citizens that this partnership was important since the county was not a service provider.
Lee Chief Appraiser Dennis Lee presented an update on efforts to complete the ongoing countywide property revaluation.
“It shall be the duty of the county board of tax accessors to investigate diligently, inquiring into the properties owned in the county for the purpose of ascertaining what real and personal property is subject to taxation in the county,” Lee said.
He went on to explain that the valuation placed on property by the county for taxation must be within a certain percentile range with what property actually is selling for. As discussed in previous meetings, the county is close to being out of compliance as the current property values are not generally reflective of the current market, and there is also disparity between similar properties. Efforts are currently under way to address these issues, the appraiser said.
Another area of concern for Lee was the percent of property owners who might choose to appeal their valuations.
“We are going to mail out the assessment notices with the new values on June 18, with property owners having 45 days to file their appeal, making Aug. 2 the final day for appeals,” Lee said. “If we keep the number of appeals below 8 percent of the number of total county parcels, we can submit the digest Aug. But we cannot do so if we are not below that 8 percent threshold.”
With this in mind, Lee recommended the county consider purchasing an Assessment Appeal Module. The program not only allows citizens to post their appeals electronically but guides them through the comparison process, which may in turn impact their decision to accept or appeal their valuation.
One thing that Lee, Commission Chairman Billy Mathis, and the other members of the commission stressed was that the revaluation is not an effort to raise taxes on property in the county.
“One thing we want the public to understand is we are going to send out tax notices which reflect the current millage rate and the new value placed on their property,” Mathis said. “That figure will likely not be the correct amount of taxes (taxpayers) will pay … if we decide to roll back the millage rate.”
With the increase in property values reflected in the new revaluation, commissioners say they believe that a change in the rate will be possible, creating a win-win for Lee County property owners: higher property values without an increase in taxes.
“I have not heard one person say they want to increase taxes in Lee County,” Mathis said.
In other business, Contilla Gooden was appointed to an unexpired term on the Animal Control Board due to the retirement of Bobby Spencer. This term expires Dec. 31. Three seats on the Community Foundation Board of Trustees were filled, with Sherry Askey, Elaine Ruckel, and Judy Powell being appointed to terms expiring March 25, 2022.