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Most lawmakers in poll back ending annual appraisals

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — An Associated Press survey of the Alabama Legislature shows an overwhelming majority favors ending annual property tax reappraisals and going back to doing reappraisals every four years.

But legislators said that doesn’t mean a bill to end annual reappraisals will pass in the regular session of the Legislature starting March 6.

They said the opponents — cities, counties and school systems that would see their tax collections reduced — have successfully bottled up the property tax legislation in House and Senate budget committees in past sessions, and they will try to do it again in the upcoming session.

“If we can get it before the House and Senate, it will pass,” Sen. Charles Bishop, R-Jasper, said.

In the AP survey of the Legislature, 64 percent of the House and 81 percent of the Senate said they favor ending annual reappraisals and going back to doing reappraisals every four years. Opposition came from 13 percent of the House and 3 percent of the Senate.

The Associated Press has been conducting surveys of the Legislature before each regular session for 11 years. The surveys have traditionally forecast what the Legislature will accomplish during its regular session. This year’s survey was answered by 76 percent of the House and 89 percent of the Senate.

In last year’s survey, 55 percent of the House and 53 percent of the Senate favored an end to annual reappraisals.

Sen. Pat Lindsey, D-Butler, said interest in the issue has grown now that most counties have switched to annual reappraisals.

“My constituents are furious,” he said.

The chairman of the Senate education committee, Hank Sanders, D-Selma, said he understands people don’t like paying property taxes, but undoing annual reappraisals would hurt schools that are anticipating the revenue from the appraisals.

.

it will generate.

Buddy Sharpless, executive director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, has been amazed at the public outcry over annual reappraisals, considering Alabama has the lowest property taxes of any state.

“People are saying, ‘It’s communism. They are raising my taxes every year,”’ he said.

But he said that once people become accustomed to annual reappraisals, he believes they will discover that it’s easier to plan for small increases every year rather than big jumps every four years. And it’s certainly easier for county governments to plan their annual budgets, he said.

Practice began in 2003

The property tax issue developed in March 2003, when Gov. Bob Riley’s revenue commissioner approved regulations to change Alabama from doing property reappraisals every four years to annually. The change is being phased in, with the last counties due to switch in 2008.

The change, after subtracting the cost of implementation, should generate an extra $448 million in tax revenue through 2010, according to the state Revenue Department’s estimates.

That increase would provide $138.8 million to county governments, $171.5 million to schools, $83.3 million to city governments, and $54.4 million to the state, the Revenue Department predicted.

The increased collections come from the typical property owner’s appraisal going up some each year, rather than taking a jump every fourth year. The extra tax revenue is collected in years one, two and three.

Some opponents of annual property reappraisals say the Legislature shouldn’t have to stop them.

“The governor started it and he should stop it,” Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, said.

Riley says he can’t without ignoring state law.

He says state law requires property taxes to be assessed annually on Oct. 1, and the law says the taxes must be based on the property’s “fair market value.” He says the only legal way to accomplish that is to reappraise the property every year to determine its fair market value, but he says that if the Legislature passes a bill to change the law, he will sign it.

AP legislative survey

Question: Legislation has been prefiled to end annual property tax reappraisals and go back to reappraisals every four years. What is your view of the legislation?

  • Support: 64 percent of House and 81 percent of Senate

  • Oppose: 13 percent of House and 3 percent of Senate

  • Undecided: 23 percent of House and 16 percent of Senate

    Responding to survey: 76 percent of House and 89 percent of Senate

    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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