Barrow County schools will seek meetings with county officials to push closer cooperation and seek ways to get $3.4 million in property taxes a state audit says it should have received in 2016.

Jennifer Houston, assistant superintendent for business services, told the board Barrow County is the lowest in the state for its sales ratio with its tax digest. She said Barrow County had a property sales ratio of 35.65 instead of the 40 percent appraisal rate it should have been. Board chair Mark Still, superintendent Chris McMichael and Houston will ask for meetings about the subject with Don Elrod, the county’s chief appraiser, and other county officials. Lynn Stevens, the board vice chair, called the information “concerning” and pressed for a plan to seek the additional funds. Houston said the state sent auditors to the county to compare sales from 2016 to the appraisals that had been made.

The $3.4 million comes from the difference in the 35.65 and 40 percent.

The subject was discussed because the school district paid $15,106 to Smith, Welch, Webb & White, an Atlanta law firm that did an audit of the state audit, and increased the Barrow County revenue by slightly more than $60,000.

The law firm gets a 25 percent fee for its work. The money came from the district’s general fund. Houston outlines invoices each month that are between $10,000 and $24,999. The district had three of those invoices this month.

The value of a property, known as the appraisal, is, ideally, the amount for which it would sell. The tax assessor takes 40 percent of that value, which is the appraisal, and that figure is included in the county’s yearly tax digest.

Houston said other counties around Barrow had sales ratios that were much closer to the 40 percent. Eight counties had 2016 ratios between 36 and 37 percent. Barrow County is the only one below 36 percent. Houston told the board Elrod has been very cooperative and re-appraised $138 million worth of property for the 2018 tax year.

See more from Tuesday's meeting in the Nov. 29 edition of the Barrow News-Journal.

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