VALDOSTA, Ga. — The Lowndes County special ballot asking if tax assessors should be appointed narrowly passed 50.27 to 49.73 percent, according to the county’s board of elections.
Results show 18,293 people voted for tax assessors to be appointed by county commissioners, and 18,095 people voted for tax assessors to continue being elected by the public — a difference of only 198 votes.
While all votes from local precincts were counted after Election Day on Nov. 8, up to 2,000 provisional, absentee and military ballots still needed to be counted. Until those remaining votes were tallied at the elections office on Tuesday, Nov. 15, the race was too close to call.
Currently, Lowndes County tax assessors are elected by the public. In every other county in Georgia, tax assessors are appointed by the county commissioners.
The ballot asked if the state should repeal the constitutional amendment that mandates Lowndes County tax assessors be elected. Now that the repeal has passed, tax assessors will be appointed by the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners starting in 2021.
The county commissioners pioneered the ballot question after discussing the change for several years. Board of Commissioners Chairman Bill Slaughter said while the current tax assessors have good intentions, he questioned whether they have the managerial skills necessary to oversee the large tax assessor’s office.
“It has been the opinion of some of the commissioners in the past that the office of the tax assessors could be operated much more efficiently … if [it] had appointed assessors rather than elected assessors,” Slaughter said.
Opponents of the referendum said the change will take away voters’ freedom in choosing its officials and will leave room for the appointments to be used as a political tool, something Slaughter said won’t happen.
Tax assessors set values on homes and properties. Those values are then used to calculate property taxes based on the millage rate set by the city and county governments. The millage rate determines how much a property is taxed; the higher the millage rate, the higher the taxes.
The tax assessors question appeared on its own special ballot because the county didn’t get it to the Board of Elections in time to be included on the state ballot, according to Deb Cox, supervisor of elections for Lowndes County.