Wade Williams

Baldwin County Chief Appraiser Wade Williams talks about property in the county being revaluated in the next four months.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles related on the revaluation process in Baldwin County.

It’s been several years since a full revaluation of property was done in Baldwin County. The last one happened in 2017, but a new revaluation of property and increase in values is about to get underway.

The classification of properties involved include residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural.

Revaluation involves the reassessment of property to their market value.

“Residential property makes up close to 55% of all properties, and maybe a little more,” according to Wade Williams, the county’s chief appraiser.

Williams, who has served in that position since Jan. 3, 2018, said he and his office staff are dealing with the historical movement of the market, which has steadily increased property values.

“We have a reflection of that in sales from 2019, 2020 and 2021,” Williams told The Union-Recorder during an interview last Thursday.

As is the case with all county tax assessor’s offices across Georgia, the Baldwin County Tax Assessor’s Office is regulated by the Georgia Department of Revenue, as well as the Georgia Department of Audits.

“The Department of Audits is important because they look at all our sales and they run statistical analysis on our sales and the output of that in layman’s terms is uniformity,” Williams said. 

He explained what Baldwin County is facing.

“There is a very strong market where we are seeing houses and other types of properties sometimes selling at twice the amount we have them on our digest values,” Williams said. “For example, if we have a house that is $150,000 total value — that’s landing and the dwelling itself — we’re seeing the sale of that particular property going for $200,000 to $250,000.”

It then becomes the responsibility of the Baldwin County Tax Assessor’s Office to try and recapture such values moving forward.

What is boils down to is that the county is undervaluing properties within the classifications of residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural.

Williams noted how the county got to this point.

“There’s a lot of different variables and reasons of why we are lagging behind on our values,” he said. “One, since 2019, we have transitioned into a new computer assisted mass appraisal system. What it does is it takes our date from our physical field checks and commutates that and helps us value properties.”

For the last 2 1/2 years, Williams said Baldwin County has adapted to the new system.

“It’s a good system, but it’s sophisticated and it’s very new for all of us,” he pointed out. “Part of our problem in the revaluation is the fact that our values have been in what is called an override status for going on 24 months.”

With the new year underway, Williams said he and his staff are taking those properties out of override status.

“We want to see where they are in comparison to 2020 and 2021 in sales and then we will change the cost tables on land and on our dwellings, and then we will reappraise all of the properties in Baldwin County,” Williams said. “And that is a description of mass appraisal or revaluation.”

Williams estimates the process will take approximately four to five months.

“It will take anywhere 4 1/2 to five months of computer changes within our system, Williams said. “We’ve already done the majority of the field work and then we bring the two together and that will give us an output, which the revaluation will give us a new value of all properties in Baldwin County.”

Unlike 2017, the last time a mass revaluation of property was performed in the county, there will be no need to hire a third party to assist.

“At this time my staff is very competent, even though in the past we have lagged behind because of the volume of appeals and adjustments that we’ve had, and we apologize for that to the public, but we are taking this responsibility upon ourselves this time around,” Williams said. “There will be no extra expense with us having to bring in a third party as it was done in 2017.”

When Williams was hired in early 2018, he inherited an estimated 1,000 appeals from the previous revaluation. 

“From 2018 to 2021, we created, roughly, another 600 appeals,” Williams said. “And in 2019, roughly another 400 appeals, in 2020, roughly 300, and in 2021, it was 175. It took a long time to put the majority of these appeals to rest. A lot of people were aggravated, which I understood, and today I still say, I appreciate the patience of the public with me.”

The tax assessor’s office is currently dealing with only 2021 appeals. 

Williams said there are 144 of them left over from last year.

“We’re to close those out as quickly as possible because we know there will be somewhere between three and five percent of appeals,” Williams said. “That will generate somewhere between 2,000 and 3,500 for the year 2022.”

Property owners in Baldwin County will have to decide whether or not they want to file an appeal after they receive their notice of assessment.

“It’s very important for the public to understand that we’re starting this month to educate and be as transparent as possible to be expecting an increase in property value in May when they receive their notice of assessment because that annual notice of assessment gives them the legal opportunity to appeal the new value,” Williams said. “The process is, you should know, as a property owner, your property better than we do. We are limited in how we can see and appraise a house. This opportunity is very important for people to say they disagree with the increase in value and then we do our best to try and find a comparison that is uniformed to the properties like that property and uniformed throughout the rest of Baldwin County.”

   

 

   

 

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