Saturday, August 20, 2011

Dougherty School System

Are you satisfied with Dougherty School System?

When you read or hear things about the local school system, or what the school board is doing, do you really understand what is happening? Things like why members of the board would consider paying more on a contract award just because a bidder graduated from a local high school. Or, perhaps why the board would rehire employees recommended for termination for poor performance. And why an investigation is being made into possible cheating on mandated tests. Well, you heard something about these issues. But what has happened that you are not aware of?

If you have children in public schools, are you pleased with the education they are getting? If your children are in private schools, is the money you are paying in school taxes to support the children of others being well spent—or is it excessive? And if you are retired and living on reduced income, does what you see coming from the school system justify what you still pay for public education—one half of your property tax bill while in some counties seniors pay nothing? And is the general perception of the educational system by outsiders hindering growth and development?

Likely, most of us in Dougherty have concerns with what we feel is being accomplished by the local school system and what public education is costing the taxpayers. But, have you ever been to a meeting of the Dougherty County School Board? Well, this is where policies and decisions are made which affect both children—and your pocketbook. For years, we simply have not gotten involved in what goes on in the schools. Hence, our lack of involvement and oversight has certainly not provided a reason for those managing the system to do better.

So what can we do? Well, for starters, how about attending school board meetings? More involvement by the public, who vote and fund the system, lets the school board know that we are interested and expect more care in conducting of public business. While it would be difficult to attend all meetings, we can all share in the effort by attending as many meetings as reasonably possible.

The Taxpayers Association is proposing to form a committee entitled “Alliance for Better Education,” an organized and serious group of citizens willing to make a difference. We plan to attend the first meeting and listen initially. Later on we can present our issues to the Board and request specific answers.

This is the upcoming schedule:

Board Meeting

August 24, 2011

Lunch/Briefing – 11:30 p.m./Meeting- 12.30 p.m.

Administration Building

Dougherty County School Board - 2011 Meeting Schedule

Regular Monthly Meetings
School Administration Building
200 Pine Avenue
Briefing: 6:00 p.m.
Meeting: 7:00 p.m.

September 12
October 10
November 7
December 12
For your information a few years ago Representatives of the Dougherty County Taxpayers Association attended a Board meeting and among other requests, requested an audit of the school finances at the Association’s expense, which was declined. It is common knowledge that the Board spends our money wastefully.

Please reply via email and let us know if you are interested in learning how the School System spends our taxpayer’s dollars.



Sunday, June 5, 2011

New Georgia Property Tax Laws in Effect

Property taxes
Are your property values falling but your assessed value remains the same? Paying too much in property taxes? New laws may help you!

In a few weeks most county property tax assessors will have mailed ever property owner a property tax assessment notice. Some of you have already received your notices.

With the passage of Senate Bill 346 signed into law in 2010 (Georgia Code Section of 48-5-2(3)(B) (effective on January 1, 2011) several changes were made to help property owners in the appeal process.

The overall reform includes more than 50 changes to current state law. Significant taxpayer friendly provisions include:

Requirement that every property owner receive annual Notice of Assessment, which guarantees right to appeal
Every Notice of Assessment must contain estimated property tax
Expansion of appeal time-period from 30 to 45 days
Alternative streamlined appeal option for property valued in excess of $1,000,000
Automatic taxpayer victory on appeals when government fails to respond within 45 days
Requirement that all relevant sales, including distress sales (foreclosures, short sales, bank sales), be included when determining Fair Market Value
Requirement that only “current use of property” be used in determining Fair Market Value
Taxpayer must be given access to all data used in determining Fair Market Value
Sales price establishes Fair Market Value for next tax year
Property owners will have 45 days to file an appeal with the Board of Assessors office.
I will get into more detail about the appeal process over the next few weeks. But for now, spend some time researching the issues and learning about the new laws and the appeal process.

Here are some links to get your started:

(Note: some information on websites may be outdated and may not reflect the new changes in law.)

Senate Bill 346

Georgia Department of Revenue – Appeals

Property Assessment Appeal Form PT-311-A

Thursday, August 26, 2010



Dear Patriot:

At the outset, we want to remind the members who appealed the excessive 2007 mass revaluation of their property that all the legal issues we raised in our 17 count Class Action lawsuit can be raised in the Dougherty Superior Court if raised before the Board of Equalization. By raising uniformity, you clearly have a right to a hearing on this issue if you appealed to the Superior Court. You are not required to have an attorney.

To our knowledge, the Superior Court has not ruled on these issues.

The Court of Appeals simply ruled that each property owner had a right to appeal to the Superior Court under O.C.G.A. sec 48-5-311 (g) and did not have a right to file a lawsuit raising the same issues. Thus, the court never ruled on the merits of our complaint.

One of our objectives is to be a “watch dog” group in analyzing the significant actions of our city and county government.

As an example of our objectives, we have discussed the legality of the City Commission in circumventing the law against a government granting gratuities by using ADICA as a conduit to make grants to their favorite organizations. Additionally the city has designated the new Walmart Shopping Center in East Albany as part of the downtown district whereby their district captures the ad valorem taxes to the exclusion of Dougherty Taxpayers.

When the city commission ruled on the recent questionable bond issue, we filed with the commission a multi page petition pointing out the legal flaws in our opinion. The commission never responded to this petition.

Basically it is our opinion that our governments and the school systems make no effort to conserve our tax dollars and in many instances squander our money.

We have to pick our legal fights based on the likelihood of a favorable ruling coupled with adequate legal funds. One of our problem is the Court will not provide any relief in the form of an injunction if the alleged action is completed. Our relief would prevent future actions.

We are not flushed with funds and we solicit your donation or pledge.

We feel our local Tax Assessors allow public utilities a pass as the law allows the Assessors 30 days to question the valuations which are received from the Department of Revenue. This department basically rubber stamps the value a utility places on their property and the department have no “field” employees to verify what property the utilities have in a county. Additionally they do not tax the utilities distribution right of ways. Thus the owner who or whose predecessor granted the easement pays the total land value. To our knowledge the local Assessors do not verify the volume of petroleum products on the pipe lines storage tanks on January 1st of each year.

Thus if those utilities paid their share of the tax burden, it would reduce our burden, which can be overwhelming.

We also feel the assessors are too liberal in allowing exemptions from taxes.

Some six or seven States have eliminated ad valorem taxes in favor of extra sales taxes, primarily these states’ Supreme Court has ruled the use of ad valorem taxes to fund education is unconstitutional because of the great value disparity between the tax bases of the various counties.

The last State to do this, to our knowledge, was Texas who ruled the ad valorem tax unconstitutional in November 2005 after a five week trial.

In 1981, the Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court said in a concurring opinion: “the ad valorem tax system is antiquated, outmoded, unfair and violates equal protection.” His use of the words “equal protection” was based on the failure to tax intangibles.

One of our ultimate missions is to join with taxpayers groups across this state to challenge the constitutionality of the use of ad valorem taxation to significantly fund education.

As you can see we need many “brain sessions” to make the right decisions. We cannot sit on our hands. Conversely we must demonstrate our back bones by challenging the extreme and wasteful decisions of our governments.

Our current situation is tantamount to the situation facing our revolutionary ancestors whose battle cry was “NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION.”

Thursday, April 8, 2010

We are in the National News

Profiles in Taxpayer Advocacy: Dougherty County Taxpayers Association

John Stephenson

April 1, 2010

From time to time, I’ll profile a local taxpayer advocate or advocacy organization to highlight their efforts fighting for lower taxes, less spending, and more transparency. For my first profile, I choose the Dougherty County Taxpayers Association (DCTA). Founded in June 2007, DCTA has been working to educate the citizens of Dougherty County, Georgia about their rights as taxpayers and engage them to better oversee county government tax and budget policies. In addition, DCTA has challenged the constitutionality of the county’s property tax system in court to make it fairer for taxpayers.

There is no question that Georgia, like many states, needs steadfast watchdogs for taxpayers. While some purported fiscal conservatives in Georgia have attacked “broad-based” tax increases, they have quietly been raising fees, proposing “revenue enhancements,” targeting new excise taxes, and coming up with other tax-hiking gimmicks. But make no mistake; these are tax increases by another name. NTU and groups like DCTA are involved in ongoing efforts at the local and state levels to prevent these and other tax increases that burden hard-working Georgia taxpayers.

Although DCTA is relatively new, already it has achieved some notable successes on behalf of taxpayers. DCTA has successfully advocated for reductions in Dougherty County property tax rates, halted an illegal $6 million “no strings attached” bond issue, and sought accountability for nearly $4 million missing from the local school lunch program.

Currently, DCTA is researching corruption in the county government and in the city of Albany, Georgia. As part of their efforts, DCTA has drafted “A Contract With the Citizens of Albany & Dougherty County, GA” for elected officials and candidates to sign. In addition, DCTA sponsors legal workshops for property owners to educate them about how to challenge disputed property values. You can read about this effort and others on DCTA’s website by clicking here

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Legal Update – 2007 Reevaluation Lawsuit

Just a note to update you on the status of our litigation for the alleged illegal 2007 reevaluation against the Tax Assessors.

As you know, our major lawsuit was sustained by Judge Crosby of Tifton and his decision was reversed by a three Judge panel in the court of Appeals. Our counsel appealed this decision to the Georgia Supreme Court via a petition for certiorari, which was denied by the Court. We then filed a motion for rehearing and two of the seven Justices agreed with our petition, but five denied.

After further review, since The Court of Appeals’ decision never ruled on the merits, but simply ruled that all of our complaints should be raised with the Board of Equalization and thereafter the Dougherty Superior Court, our counsel elected to file a three count amendment to our original lawsuit. Since Judge Crosby had retired, the case was transferred to Judge Ellerbee of Valdosta. Judge Ellerbee ruled that we could not legally file the three-count amendment. We disagreed with this ruling and filed an appeal to the Court of Appeals, who on February 20, 2010 signed an Order transferring this case to the Supreme Court.

We are required to file briefs shortly to the Supreme Court. Additionally, we have concluded that the City of Albany is not only unethically, but illegally using ADICA as a conduit in funding various agencies such as the Civil Rights Institute. To stop this will necessitate a lawsuit. As a preliminary to this lawsuit, we recently served an open records request on the City, ADICA, and the Civil Rights Institute. We have not been completely satisfied with their response and a number of our requests necessitate our going downtown and examining voluminous records.

Over $3.9 million has been poured into the Albany Civil Rights Museum to date, and they have yet to answer our request (under the open records act) for an accounting of where the money went. After visiting it, some of our members see less than $500,000 (at best) of improvements, and visitation/revenue numbers are dismal.

The Georgia Constitution prohibits a government, which includes a City, from paying “gratuities” to any agency. The City is aware of this prohibition, but state that by paying these funds to ADICA they avoid this prohibition. It is estimated that the City is paying one-half a million a year in violation of our constitution.

Upon learning of the School Board’s statutory violation in its selection of a new superintendent, the DCTPA, Inc. immediately forwarded a letter to the State Attorney General’s office requesting their intervention into this most embarrassing fiasco. Simultaneously, WALB, WFXL, and the Albany Herald filed (and were successful) an injunction to stop the Board’s irresponsible action. With this legal action pending, the State Attorney General’s office declined to intervene.

In the wake of an apparent settlement with the School Board (after local judges recused themselves for conflicts of interest), the DCTPA, Inc. ceased any continued recall (impeachment) actions against five board members which had been set into motion. The recall would have been very costly, not only in man-hours, but legal expenses as well.

Every action we have taken since our inception in 2006 is directed toward honesty and accountability in government, and reducing your taxes, whether by nullifying the illegal 2007 revaluation, or to stop the sheer waste of money in wasteful projects and government corruption.

Although the conviction of Don Buie was a partial victory for all of us, the $6 million ADICA bond remains intact, although the new “pigs at the trough” know we stand with a watchful eye as to what they do with the funds.

Our “coffers are dry” at this writing and we need every taxpaying citizen’s involvement and financial support to continue our fight. Otherwise, Albany is doomed.

We are sponsoring a Tax Return (appeal) Seminar on Thursday evening, March 11 at 7:00 p.m. at the Merry Acres Event Center (generously donated to us by the Dozier Family) that will give every disgruntled taxpaying citizen an opportunity to express their disdain with local government by learning how to file their appeals before April 1, 2010. If you are not present, you are forfeiting your right as a citizen to complain about our failed system and Albany’s future.

We have four new county commission seats available this November, so bring us your proposed candidates and your checkbooks, as we need your help. New T-shirts and bumper stickers, and county maps will be available to all!

Our deepest thanks,

D.C.T.P.A., Inc.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Action taken regarding The Dougherty County Board of Education

February 5, 2010

Honorable Thurbert E. Baker
Attorney General
40 Capital Square, S.W.
Atlanta, Georgia 30334

Re: The Dougherty County Board of Education

Dear Mr. Baker:

I represent an incorporated group of taxpaying citizens, The Dougherty County Taxpayers Association, Inc., which was formed in 2006 by thousands of unhappy taxpayers who felt the need to confront ad valorem tax issues that evolved from an illegal tax assessment that was based upon inflated values derived from an out-of-state, unqualified, drive-by (windshield), real estate appraisal firm and our denial of arbitration and the administrative process by local officials. (Our lawsuits against County tax boards (and our appeals) have taken us all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court).

The rights of our taxpayers, most recently addressed by Senate Bill 346, have caused us to challenge local government corruption resulting in a November 2009 conviction of an inter-city manager, as well as exposing numerous accounts of wasteful government projects and spending at both the City and County levels. We are an organized, well informed, and engaged group of citizens who are striving to make our community a better place for its citizens to live.

Our local School Board, previously cited by our organization for wasteful spending, missing funds of $3.9 million from a school lunch program, and other infractions, has recently acted in such a way which we feel clearly violates the code of ethics of at least four Board members. In addition, their collective acts, as cited by their own attorney (see attached 2/1/10 letter from attorney Tommy Coleman of Perry & Walters, LLP) have clearly violated Article 4 of Chapter 18 of Title 50 of the Official Code of Georgia.

Briefly, these four members (of a Board of seven) ignored warnings from their own attorney (and outraged citizens), by-passed the administrative and due process of the Georgia Code and the Open Records Act by holding closed sessions, and voted on and selected a new Superintendent of. Schools who, by all accounts, was ranked 34th of the 37 applicants in terms of experience and qualifications. They ignored the requirement of selecting at least three of the most qualified candidates and openly citing their qualifications to the public prior to a final vote.

Of the candidate they selected, there are not only issues of limited or educational experience in grades K-12 (a former prerequisite of candidates), but a somewhat obvious conflict of interest in his having served on another board with one of the of the School Board members who insisted on his appointment.

Our local media members WALB TV, FOX TV and The Albany Herald (The Albany Journal also dissenting) as a class, were granted an injunction on 2/5/10 by Superior Court Judge Denise Marshall delaying the seating of this questionable Superintendent and his appointment until March 1, 2010.

Our Taxpayers' Association has, as of this writing, initiated the proper steps to begin a recall under the Georgia Public Officers Recall Act of 1989 to at least hold these four School Board members accountable to the voting public for their egregious and illegal acts. Such a recall is time-consuming, and because of our March 1, 2010 deadline, (as to the injunction) we ask that your office intervene with this matter, not only from the standpoint of ethics and constitutional violations, but to protect state funds (and local funds) which will eventually fall prey to the potential misdeeds of these officials, if left unchecked.

We, as representatives of the citizens of Dougherty County, would appreciate your intervention and expedition of this matter in a most timely manner.

Richard R. Thomas
Dougherty County Taxpayers' Association, Inc.

cc: Governor Sonny Purdue
Atlanta Journal & Constitution Tommy Coleman, Esq.
The Albany Herald
The Albany Journal

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Must read! Article published in The Albany Herald, January 30,2010

Welcome to the “New Minority”

According to IRS data, the bottom 50% of wage earners in 2008 paid a total of 2.99% of all taxes – almost none. The top 50% paid 97% after OBAMA’s 2009 cash pay-out to people who pay little or no taxes (so called refundable tax credits) and for the first time in history, over 50% of American citizens will pay no federal taxes in 2010.

What does this mean for America? When more than 50% of the citizens aren’t paying for the cost of government, it becomes impossible to win an election by promising to reduce government spending or wasteful services, when over 50% of citizens depend on it and vote for it.

In Dougherty County slightly more than 15% of the population pay advalorem taxes to support a government and services supporting approximately 97,000 citizens.

Is this not an insidious form of economic, if not electoral, discrimination when such a vast minority of citizens who control the majority of investment capital, technology, and taxable resources are denied a seat at the table of governance by lesser, if not non-productive, have nots? It is in essence “taxation without representation.”

The same intellectual and capital resources that built this community and nation are now outnumbered, out voted, and void of representation in our city/county commissions, as well as government appointments, now dominated by bureaucrats who have limited or no knowledge of business, commerce, economic or risk capital concepts.

Space does not allow me to list the numerous wasteful government projects (with which we are all familiar) that are sucking the very life blood out of this once vibrant community and driving its greatest human, technological and capital resources out of the area, (the “timeliners”), just biding their time for kids to graduate, a promotion, or retirement, etc. then leave this misery behind.

Most recently, our School Board out-voted 2 prudent members (5 to 2) to by-pass state statutes and appoint an unqualified superintendent with no experience to lead an already broken and inferior public education system that receives a major part of its financial support from 15% of its working citizens, who either have no school age children or pay thousands of dollars more to send their children to private schools. The desperate cries of “foul” from productive (minority) tax paying citizens falls upon ignorant deaf ears. “They know not that they know not and they know not.”

We should not fault directly the members of school boards or city and county commissions who make these egregious decisions, but instead fault the people who elected these incompetent people who serve in these responsible positions. As a “new minority”, our silence only encourages more of the same.

It is no different from Carlton Fletcher’s report of two jurors in the Don Buie trial who refused to be a part of “sending another black man to jail”. If not for a very courageous and ambitious chief assistant D.A., who cut a last minute plea “deal” with Buie’s attorney, Buie would have walked away a free man. Those responsible for his acts still go unpunished, even without a reprimand or suspension.

Albany is on track to becoming a microcosm of Detroit and East St. Louis, where productive tax-paying citizens have been driven from the area (by taxes, crime, failed public education, etc.) and left the remaining citizens as “pawns” of the state and federal governments and elected bureaucrats to languish in 40% unemployment and abject poverty. We as the “new minority” are voluntarily surrendering our resources without a fight, consumed by public apathy.

The only hope for our community is for this “new minority” to rise up, become engaged and involved, demand accountability of its tax dollars spent, encourage qualified truthful and dedicated citizens to run for office, and then elect them by insisting that 80% of us must out-vote the margins of those who (now the majority) practice economic and racial extortion that threatens the very fabric of our community.

Richard R. Thomas, a resident of Albany for

37 years, holds a B.S. degree in economics

and a M.B.A. in finance, and is President of

Corporate and Estate Analysts, Inc. an estate

Planning and Wealth Transfer Firm. He can

be reached at