Property tax bills in Cobb are due by Oct. 15, and according to the Cobb County Tax Commissioner’s Office, the county is expecting to collect about $18.7 million less in property taxes in 2013.
The office sent out 255,486 bills Aug. 14-15, totaling $582 million in personal property and real property tax collections for seven different taxing authorities — state, county general fund, county bond, county fire, Cobb schools, the Cumberland Community Improvement District and Town Center CID.
Revenue collected for these entities helps pay for services provided by each, such as 911, libraries, parks and school maintenance and operations. Federal and state taxes are collected at a separate time and are due April 15 of each year.
A tax on “real property” applies to residential and commercial real estate while the tax on “personal property” applies to business property assets like inventory.
Aside from property taxes, the tax commissioner’s office also collects public utilities, mobile homes, heavy duty, motor vehicle and timber ad valorem taxes under the digest.
The property values are set by the Cobb County Tax Assessor’s Office. Chief Appraiser Stephen White said his office arrives at the fair market value by determining what a property should sell for on the real estate market. The county then applies its millage rate to the “assessed value,” which is 40 percent of the fair market value. State law requires counties to have the property values set by Jan. 1 each year.
“Sometimes the value doesn’t change, so some properties this year, although very few, didn’t see an increase or decrease (in property taxes),” White said.
Drop in collections for 2013
Compared to collections last year, the county is expecting to bring in $600.7 million — $18.7 million less than in 2012. That is a 3.1 percent drop.
Carla Jackson, chief deputy with the Tax Commissioner’s office, said $5 million of that reduction in collections can be attributed to a decrease in the millage rates for the state and county general collections.
The state millage rate decreased from .2 mills to .15 mills, and the county general fund from 7.72 mills to 7.52 mills.
Mercer University professor, economist and Smyrna resident Roger Tutterow said the decrease in collections overall isn’t unexpected since property values have been dropping in Atlanta and all over the nation since 2006 until they hit bottom in spring 2012.
“It’s really only within the last 12 to 18 months that we’ve begun to see the upward movement in market values,” he said. “Commercial real estate is sort of moving up again as well.”
He recognizes that there is a lag between the market value and assessments.
“Generally speaking, the receipts have bottomed out and I think that as we move deeper into the fiscal year, we will see the receipts move up,” he said.
Cobb County Commission Chairman Tim Lee agreed.
“It put us right where we thought we would be,” he said. “We knew we’d have a slight decrease in the digest … we knew the numbers would go down, so the numbers didn’t catch us by surprise.”
Lee, like Tutterow, believes the county’s property values have hit bottom and are now turning upward after many years of decline.
“Commercially, we are starting to pick up, almost to 2009 levels and we’ve flattened out in the values, so it’s logical to assume that next year, we might even go up slightly, or at least stay flat,” Lee said. “So, in the long run I think we’ve turned a corner because our revenues are still strong.”
Comparing the taxing authorities
The largest amount of local tax dollars will be collected for the Cobb County School District, which employs about 13,500 people and serves 106,600 students.
The county expects to collect $336.3 million in school taxes, or about $9.1 million less than in 2012.
Brad Johnson, Cobb School’s chief finance director, said a 2 percent reduction in tax collections for the district was expected by his office, although the Cobb School Board in May budgeted a 0 percent decline in collections.
“That’s disappointing but that’s kind of what we thought it would be and hopefully in the future it will start going up again,” he said.
The smallest amount of tax dollars is collected for the Town Center CID, which is the area surrounding the mall near Kennesaw. The county expects to receive $2.9 million in 2013 for this taxing authority, down $98,637 from what was collected in 2012.
Property taxes are due no later than Oct. 15. Failure to pay on time could result in a penalty or interest charge. Bills can be paid online at cobbtag.org or at the tax commissioner’s main office at 736 Whitlock Ave., Suite 100, Marietta, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Property tax breakdown
* STATE: Portion of property taxes paid to the Georgia Department of Revenue, .15 mills
* COUNTY GENERAL FUND: Portion of property taxes paid to the Cobb County Government’s general fund, 7.52 mills
* COUNTY BOND: Portion of property taxes paid to the Cobb County bond debt, .33 mills
* COUNTY FIRE: Portion of property taxes paid to Cobb County Fire and Emergency Services, 3.06 mills
* CUMBERLAND CID: Portion of the property taxes paid to business members of the Cumberland Community Improvement Districts, .5 mills
* TOWN CENTER CID: Portion of the property taxes paid to business members of the Town Center Community Improvement Districts, .5 mills
* BILLS ISSUED: Aug. 14-15
* DUE DATE: Oct. 15
* PAYMENT: Visit cobbtax.org or in person Cobb County Tax Commissioner’s Office, 736 Whitlock Ave., Suite 100, Marietta Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.