Pay Attention to Property Tax Increases in Athens-Clarke County

For the past several years, I have made an annual blog post about Athens-Clarke County property taxes.  This is an area where someone in my profession can offer some insight.  While I will admit my personal feelings might accidently shine through, my goal is not that of a political aim, but to hopefully educate you on your taxes and how the money is spent.  I began working in Athens Real Estate in 2004 and one thing that never changes is that people gripe when their property taxes go up.  For the most part, increased property taxes are a good sign for property owners because it means their property is increasing in value.  However, we have witnessed massive gains in real estate values over the last decade and they have accelerated even faster in the last year.  These gains make it hard to argue on your assessed value from the county but considering our property taxes have increased drastically over the last 5 to 7 years, I think you should pay more attention to your local government spending.  This Thursday May 13th, citizens can provide public comment on the proposed 2022 Athens-Clarke operating budget which plans to utilize $73,500,000 from property taxes which is up from last year and has been for several years in a row.

Currently on the ACC government website, they have posted the proposed budget and some explanations for the increases.  On the site, an argument is made that these tax increases only represent a modest increase. For example, a home around $275,000 might see an increase ranging from $60 to $82 depending on homestead exemption.  That is certainly one way to sell a tax increase to people.  However, I think we should take a more in depth look at these increases over the past several years because this has become a predictable and annual event.  For many years now, real estate values have gone up and subsequently so have the taxes. Each year that extra revenue in property taxes seems to be spent by our government with almost no savings passed down to Clarke County homeowners.  Look at the graph below that shows the 5 year annual change in major revenues for the county: 

As you can see, there has been a drastic increase in property tax revenue over the last 5 years. In fact, that revenue stream has far out paced the other areas of revenue as demonstrated in the graph above.  The graph shows the real story of our local tax increases, which has been $20,000,000 of increased revenue over 5 years and not just a modest $60 increase as noted above.  As I have done before, I tracked a modest ranch style home in the 5 Points area to demonstrate tax increases to homeowners.  I selected this property because it has not undergone a massive renovation but has just been properly upkept by the homeowner.  The home is 2,100 square feet and I want to remind you that it has not undergone a massive renovation in the last 10 years. See the rundown below:

Year                                Property Taxes

2016                                                    $3,930.46

2017                                                    $4,196.00

2018                                                    $5,540.00

2019                                                    $5,998.00

2020                                                   $6,146.78

2021                                                    $6,998.00

As you can see, these small increases have become very meaningful for this homeowner.  They have almost DOUBLED since 2016 and now represent an increase of $255 per month since 2016 for a total increase of $3,063.  I used this same property over a year ago to demonstrate these tax increases and now the tax has gone up another $1,000. It should be noted that homeowners often feel the brunt of these tax increases and not landlords. A landlord has the ability to increase the rent they charge to tenants whereas a homeowner only sees their monthly cost go up. In many cases, these taxes are being passed through to renters and are increasing housing costs for both homeowners and renters.

I could go through the budget and point out areas where the money is going, but this is not meant to be political or to turn you against an elected council member.  People have many different and varied opinions on what a justified cost is.  And no one should feel that taxes are not needed for our community.  Property taxes are part of home ownership and we all should pay our part and contribute to our community.  But when it comes to our taxes, we should watch our elected officials like a college student with their parent’s credit card.

Links to References in Blog Post

Some Thoughtful and Amusing Quotes on Taxes

“You don’t pay taxes–they take taxes.”

Chris Rock

“There’s nothing wrong with the younger generation that becoming taxpayers won’t cure.”

Dan Bennett

“Taxes are paid in the sweat of every man who labors.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

“I shall never use profanity except in discussing house rent and taxes.””

Mark Twain