Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Residents Get Few Answers on Property Values; Assessors Are a No-Show for Meeting; Aide Talks Up Bill to Freeze Values

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Residents Get Few Answers on Property Values; Assessors Are a No-Show for Meeting; Aide Talks Up Bill to Freeze Values

Article excerpt

Byline: GORDON JACKSON

ST. MARYS - Camden County homeowners could soon have protection from escalating property appraisals, some of which could increase more than 800 percent.

Rindy Howell, a legislative aide for state Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, said the General Assembly has approved legislation authorizing a referendum on freezing values at 2006 levels on Kingsland, St. Marys and Woodbine properties that have homestead exemptions.

"It's sitting on the governor's desk waiting to be signed," Howell told a group of 50 residents in St. Marys on Monday. "He has 45 days [to sign the bill]."

If Perdue signs the legislation, voters in the three cities would decide in a November referendum whether to roll back property values.

But Howell said the rollbacks wouldn't go into effect until Jan. 1, meaning residents will have to pay taxes at the new assessed rates for the 2009 tax year. Some residents could receive tax bills thousands of dollars higher than last year's bills.

Residents at the meeting in St. Marys organized by the grass-roots group Camden Watchdog applauded when Howell made the announcement.

The meeting was organized to give St. Marys residents a chance to question appointed members of the Camden County Board of Assessors, who had said they would attend and explain the values posted on a county Web site. None of them attended, however.

"As you can see, we have an empty table here," Doug Vaught, a former St. Marys City Council member, said of places reserved for the assessors. "That speaks volumes."

Robert Rudolph, chairman of the Board of Assessors, said Tuesday he and other assessors didn't attend because they were concerned about violating the state's open meetings law. If three or more assessors attended they could not discuss anything they could possibly vote on later, he said. …

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