People tell me about discrepancies large and small with their property appraisals. I’ve seen many of them myself, yet the folks who complain don’t always appeal. I have to ask what keeps taxpayers from questioning decisions affecting their hard-earned money.  Do they feel intimidated? Do they understand process?

We should insist on transparency in the activities of local government.  We should strive for more accuracy and for equitable appraisals.

The last time we had a changing of the guard in the property assessor’s position was 18 years ago. Three years later, Tax Management Associates was hired to perform state-mandated audits on private companies.  In performing these audits, TMA found inaccuracies in more than half of them. It’s been reported that the average error rate is about 30 percent, and if that’s true, we can say this is an exceptional record-missing the mark more than 52 percent of the time.

On their website, TMA says that since they were hired, they have discovered inventory worth $375 million that had previously been left off of personal property tax rolls of private companies in Hamilton County. What a lot to miss. We used a system of self-reporting, and it failed. That kind of miscalculation hurts everyone.


Consider making a change. Consider that staying with the status quo all these years has meant that Hamilton County was the very last county in the state to operate on a mainframe system that costs $275,000 to operate.  And consider the computer-aided mass appraisal system approved for purchase by the County Commission a couple of years ago for $471,000. To date, this software has not been fully implemented.  If the technology we already own were fully utilized, would the assessor’s budget require as much as the recently asked for increase of $589,000?

Whether you own or rent, you pay real estate taxes. You owe it to yourself to engage in the process of governance. If you want access, transparency and technology implemented in your property assessor’s office, vote for Jelena Butler.

Jelena Butler