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Commercial Assessment Issue Update

By Paul Bolster, in part from information in The Atlanta Civic Circle

A new Georgia Tech study confirms that Fulton County is failing to properly assess high end commercial property. A recent Georgia Tech School of Public Policy study concluded the City of Atlanta, Atlanta Public Schools, and Fulton County are annually missing out on $290 million in revenue from commercial properties. Based on publically available sales data, the study found commercial property in Fulton is only assessed at 61% of its actual sales value. This falls far short of the Georgia Constitutional requirement that all property be assessed at full market value. Current assessments miss $6.7 Billion in taxable value.

One example given in the study is 1180 Peachtree, known as Symphony Tower. It sold in 2022 for $465 million but was only valued by Fulton County at $193 Million.

SAND wrote a letter to Fulton Commissioners on August 11 asking for their plan to correct the inequity in assessments. The letter argued the below market commercial assessments shift the burden of support for local government to residential owners. At this writing no commissioner has answered the letter.

Some Commissioners have suggested the Georgia Legislature needs to change the commercial appeals process. In an interview with Atlanta Civic Circle, Fulton spokesperson Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez said commercial owners “lawyer up” and get their assessment reduced in Superior Court. But it is not clear if local government can get legislation through the powerful business interests under the Gold Dome.

Julian Bene, who has tracked this issue for years, suggests the county ought to “lawyer up” and even up the court fight while we wait for the legislature to act. Fulton County, he believes, should engage specialized attorneys and accountants to vigorously fight for fair assessments when owners take their assessments to Superior Court. Under current law, the County must pay the commercial property’s attorneys’ fees when they get their assessment reduced by a judge. It is not a level playing field – not for the county attorney nor the residential owner.

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