High property taxes: Appealing, exemptions and budgeting

Jennifer Munoz (WGXA)

MACON, Ga. -- As Macon-Bibb County experiences budget issues and discuss ways to handle the deficit, some residents fear a rise in their property taxes.

Colleen Giffin, vice president of Beall Financial Planning, said there are some ways to cut property taxes or prepare for an increase.

Macon homeowner Julie O'Connell's property taxes increased about $100 over the past year. "We'd really have to cut, I'd hate to say this because people always say we are on the fixed income and I think everyone is on a fixed income but we'd have to cut back on a lot of things," she said.

According to Giffin, one way to prepare is to check for tax exemptions in the county, especially for the elderly and low-income families. "Homeowners that are either elderly or low income or there are other exemptions that they have as well that they can apply for," she said.

Homeowners can also appeal the assessed value of their home to pay lower property taxes. Every year, homeowners receive an assessed value of their home from the county, which determines how much they'll pay in taxes. In Macon-Bibb County, the deadline to appeal is April 1, 2018.

Giffin said that anyone who plans to appeal should be ready to discuss why they believe their home should be valued lower than what the county assessed it at. "If say I think my house is worth $120,000 instead of $130,000 I have to prove why I think there is a $10,000 difference and they need to lower it," she said.

Giffin added that a disadvantage of getting a property's value lowered is that homeowners may find this affects how much they can sell their house for in the future. She said that this option may work best for someone planning to stay in their home for many years.

For those who don't want to appeal or who don't qualify for tax breaks, Giffin said that the best way to deal with property taxes is to budget. She said that making cuts in spending can make up for the tax bill.

Giffin added that another option is to escrow a mortgage. "If you escrow with your mortgage you need to actually start putting more into it so you don't get hit with such a larger increase when they reset your monthly payment," she said.

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