Review of the Performance of the
Fulton County Board of Assessors
At the request of the governing authority of Fulton County, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 48-5-
295.1, a performance review of the Fulton County Board of Assessors (hereafter referred
to as the BOA) was requested. The request was transmitted to the Commissioner of the
Georgia Department of Revenue, who appointed three competent and independent
individuals to a Performance Review Board (hereafter referred to as the PRB). Those
Chuck Nazerian Mr. Nazerian has been employed as an appraiser with the Local
Government Services Division of the Department of Revenue
since December 2003, and a contract instructor for the
Department for the past 6 years. He served as Laurens County
Chief Appraiser for 3 years, is certified as an Appraiser IV by
the Department of Revenue, and is licensed by the Georgia Real
Estate Appraisal Board. Mr. Nazerian served as Chairman of the
E. Lamar Sims Mr. Sims is Chairman and Chief Appraiser of the Rockdale
County Board of Assessors. He is certified as an Appraiser IV
by the Department of Revenue.
George W. Hanson, Jr. Mr. Hanson is chief appraiser for the Clarke County Board of
Assessors. He became chief appraiser in 1972 and has been
president of the Georgia Association of Assessing Officials on
two separate occasions. Mr. Hanson is certified as an Appraiser
IV by the Department of Revenue and is licensed as a Certified
General Real Property Appraiser by the Georgia Real Estate
On January 4, 2006, the PRB began its investigation of the Fulton County BOA in the
county manager’s conference room in Atlanta, Georgia.
According to the statute, the purpose of the PRB is to make a thorough and complete
investigation of the BOA and appraisal staff regarding the technical competency of
appraisal techniques and compliance with state laws and regulations. The PRB is further
directed by the statute to issue a written report of its findings that shall include such
evaluations, judgments, and recommendations, as it deems appropriate. The reasonable
expenses incurred by the members of the PRB in the performance of their duties are
reimbursed by the governing authority of Fulton County and include mileage, meals,
lodging and cost of materials.
Fulton County Performance Review Report Page 1
The governing authority of Fulton County may use the findings in this report as grounds
for removal of one or more members of the BOA pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 48-5-295(b) if,
in its collective judgment, such removal is warranted.
Scope of Review
The Performance Review Board reviewed the minutes of the BOA’s meetings for
calendar years 2004 and 2005, property record cards, and tax maps. Other documents
reviewed included exempt property lists and approval forms, internal appraisal summary
forms (used in BOA meetings), appeal tracking forms, and other internal appraisal
Prior to the beginning of the investigation, the county manager was advised that the PRB
would be interviewing all members of the BOA, members of the appraisal office staff,
and any other county official or concerned citizen who wished to be interviewed by the
The PRB interviewed the following officials:
Fulton County Board of Commissioners Members
Ms. Karen Handel
Ms. Lynne Riley
Ms. Emma I. Darnell
Fulton County BOA Members
Ms. Helen White
Mr. Alvin Levine
Mr. Elbert Jenkins
Mr. Albert Maslia
Fulton County Appraisal Staff Members
Ms. Rosalind Ray, Chief Appraiser
Mr. Terry Everson, Deputy Chief Appraiser
Mr. Willie Wilson, Deputy Chief Appraiser
Mr. Dwayne Pickney, Personal Property Manager and Secretary to the BOA
Mr. James McDonald, Special Properties Manager
Mr. Eduardo Da Silva, Commercial Appraisal Manager
Mr. Ed. Krebs, Commercial Appraisal Manager
Mr. Ken Rafarty, Senior Commercial Appraiser
Ms. Rebecca Canada, Senior Residential Appraiser
Mr. Stephen Foster, Senior Personal Property Appraiser
Ms. Hedi Williams, Commercial Property Appraiser
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Mr. Corey McDaniel, Commercial Property Appraiser
Mr. Curtis Broden, Personal Property Appraiser
Ms. Gail Wilson, Residential Appraiser
Ms. Janice Parker, Personal Property Appraiser
Mr. Danny Brown, Personal Property Auditor
Mr. Stanley Keneau, Personal Property Auditor
Ms. Darlene Davis, Financial Services Coordinator
Ms. Sherri Poole, Support Services for Personal Property
Ms. Angela Jones, Real Estate Appraiser Trainee
Other Fulton County Officials
Mr. Tom Andrews, County Manager
Ms. Ruth Jones, Assistant County Manager
Mr. O. V. Brantley, County Attorney
Ms. Patrece Howell, Director, Fulton County Board of Equalization
Mr. Arthur Ferdinand, Fulton County Tax Commissioner
Mr. Ralph Daniels, staff member for Commissioner Tom Lowe
Mr. Al Deen, Field Representative, Georgia Department of Revenue
The Department of Revenue provided field appraisers to assist the PRB in its
investigation. The board directed the Department of Revenue appraisers to conduct field
reviews of several properties in various areas of the county. They were instructed to
verify the accuracy of the county’s tax records and competency of the techniques used to
appraise the properties reviewed. The field appraisers also reviewed properties listed on
the exempt digest and those properties under conservation use covenants.
The Performance Review Board toured the offices of the BOA and reviewed staffing
levels, training, appraisal methodology, and customer services areas.
Board of Assessors
During the PRB’s interview with the BOA, it was quickly evident that the members of
the BOA are unclear about their duties and how they should carry out their responsibility
of providing oversight to the appraisal office. Each BOA member had a varying opinion
what their interaction with the chief appraiser and staff entailed and a different opinion of
their function within the organization, especially as it relates to the day-to-day operations
of the office. During the interviews, more than one of the assessors commented on a large
number of 3-2 votes in meetings and that each member had their own agenda.
Additionally, when asked general questions about their duties, targeted level of
assessments, exemptions, and interacting with other officials and county offices, their
answers varied greatly.
Fulton County Performance Review Report Page 3
Based on the interviews, there was a general feeling with the PRB members that the five
assessors viewed their appointments as political and for the purpose of solely
representing the property owners within their district, without consideration for fair
taxation of all county taxpayers. It was noted there is no submission of resumes or
general qualifications of potential assessors for the board of commissioners to review.
Assessors are simply chosen as a result of a single commissioner’s recommendation.
Based on this philosophy, it is unlikely the best candidates have been appointed.
The county board of commissioners has not passed a resolution setting staggered term
limits for members of the Board of Assessors as required by O.C.G.A. 48-5-295. This
deficiency was noted in the 2004 digest review and has not been corrected.
When questioning the policies adopted by the BOA, it was found that a policy for
reviewing specific properties has been implemented. This policy consists of a review of
commercial property when the values change by 10% or more and 20% or more for
residential property. While the BOA needs to have a reasonable policy for value changes
and supporting documentation, they do not have the necessary technical expertise to
independently appraise properties. Therefore, they should receive a list of all value
changes and once satisfied, approve the value changes for issuance of notices to
Any threshold for reviewing changes is best determined and administered by the chief
appraiser who has the technical expertise to determine whether properties have been
appraised at fair market value. A knowledgeable chief appraiser should also review all
reports and supporting documents to ensure that the BOA and the public have confidence
in the appraisal process.
This process would eliminate the current practice of the BOA sending reports back to the
staff for correction of factual and grammatical errors two or three times.
Compilation of Digest
During interviews, the BOA and members of the appraisal management staff continually
claimed Fulton County is “different” than any other jurisdiction in the state and therefore,
cannot be compared with other counties. The PRB believes this is nothing more than an
excuse for an unwillingness to make changes in appraisal philosophy and to seek more
efficient ways to accomplish the work of the BOA.
The BOA has no clear policy concerning deadlines or cut-off dates that are integral to the
assessment calendar. And while the BOA is turning over what it perceives to be a
complete digest, representing annual property ownership and values, the PRB found that
the figures from the ‘official’ closed digest did not reconcile with the computer system’s
figures. This resulted in a large numbers of “errors and reliefs” having to be processed by
the tax commissioner’s office each year.
This is an extremely poor practice because the county’s taxing authorities use the
purported values in the final digest to set tax rates and forecast revenues.
Fulton County Performance Review Report Page 4
Finally, there is a continued failure on the part of the BOA to produce an annual tax
digest that is compliant with the laws of the state. Since tax year 1999, the county
governing authority has paid the state approximately $5 million in additional state tax and
penalties for failure to meet the standards of uniformity and level of assessment of
It is the belief of the PRB that the assessors have been ineffective in explaining to the
public, the media, and other officials the reasons for their ineffectiveness and failures.
These problems have escalated to the point that public trust has been lost, along with the
trust of other county officials and departments.
It is the opinion of the PRB that the chief appraiser has been promoted beyond her area of
expertise and skills and has little chance of improving the problems within the appraisal
office. When asked about certain appraisal subjects covered in the Appraisal Procedures
Manual, the chief appraiser said, “each staff member has one but they do not use it”.
The BOA should evaluate each employee’s skills and technical expertise. Coming up
through the ranks does not, on its own, provide the management tools needed for serving
as chief appraiser. The chief appraiser has taken the approach of ‘business as usual’,
rather than initiate a plan to bring about proper oversight of the appraisal process and
good customer service. When the PRB asked what the plan was to fix the problems, the
reply was that ‘no plan existed’ and ‘what should be the first steps?’. This approach,
coupled with the lack of training and limited management abilities, hinders the current
If the BOA is to be successful in improving the current situation that exists in the office,
it must ensure that the chief appraiser is a person who has the technical skills and ability
to manage a complete reappraisal of property; plus the expertise to manage the day-to-
day operations of the office, and the communications skills to build relationships and
trust with other county departments, property owners associations, the governing
authority of the county and the various municipalities.
In an ideal situation, the appraisal functions of the BOA would operate outside the
political environment. Certainly the recent problems in the BOA’s office has created
greater concerns than what might ordinarily exist, but the high political interest in Fulton
County’s BOA seems to go back much further.
About 1991, the Fulton County BOA completed a property revaluation for the first time
in 20+ years. The revaluation resulted in notices being issued to approximately 230,000
property owners, reflecting property value increases as much as 150%.
More than 30,000 appeals were filed, resulting in the revaluation being challenged in
court. In 1993, the court found in favor of the BOA and upheld the revaluation.
Fulton County Performance Review Report Page 5
Even though the revaluation was upheld and the BOA believed the values to be correct,
numerous changes were made to satisfy property owners, who argued that their value
could not have increased as much as the notice reflected.
Additionally, taxpayers were not only subjected to higher property valuations, but also
higher tax bills because the county commissioners did not roll back the millage rate to
offset the increase in property assessments. The blame for the higher tax bills fell
completely on the assessor’s office. This appears to have started the eroding confidence
in the assessors office ability to assess property uniformly and at an acceptable level.
Through the years, this perception has grown and has now reached a point where the
BOA has no credibility with taxpayers or county officials.
Staffing & Personnel
During the review, the PRB compared the Fulton County BOA office staffing levels with
other metro counties and with The International Association of Assessing Officers
(IAAO) Staffing Standard. The comparison indicates that the number of staff employed
by the Fulton County BOA is more than adequate to perform the duties required by state
law. Below is a table showing the results of the comparison:
Fulton BOA Gwinnett BOA Cobb BOA
Real Property Parcels 280,000 255,000 230,000
Full Time Staff 180 65 53
** Part Time Staff 20
GIS Staff BOA Staff 11 – GIS Dept BOA Staff
Lag time on property
transfers, splits, new 4 months 3 weeks 3 weeks
Municipalities valued 9 11 9
Contracts For Commercial
Observations Operations Div has 108
or 60% of the total staff
4 to be dedicated 10 to offset need
BOA’s Desired Additional to commercial for contract work –
Staff Needs appraisal – Total Total 63 positions
** Some of the part time staff work 40 hours a week but do not receive benefits
A review of the table raises the following issues:
The Operations Division employs 60% of the total staff but no actual appraisal work
is done by the division. The division is responsible for Homesteads, Special
Properties, GIS, and Field Book.
Commercial properties represent approximately 38% of the entire value
of the tax digest, however the smallest number of employees is maintained for
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It is not reasonable that it takes more people to run the Operations Division in Fulton
County than the entire Gwinnett County assessors’ office.
The residential section appears to have more managers and supervisors than workers.
Time did not allow the PRB to thoroughly study the supervisor/worker ratio. It appears
too many staff members are reviewing the work of others, when oftentimes the work has
already been reviewed. There also appears to be very little communication from top
management to the staff members who are performing the day-to-day operations of the
office. No one talked about coordinating grading and depreciation of structures to
ensure each appraiser was using the same standards. This, in itself, creates inequities in
values between parcels.
The Fulton County BOA has not performed any comprehensive revaluation of real
property in the county since 1991. After the 1991 revaluation, the practice was to update
property classes as needed. According to those interviewed, the former Chief Appraiser,
John Cunningham, had contemplated a system that would allow for an annual update of
all properties but it was never implemented.
Inconsistencies were found with the application of the appraisal data, including grading
of improved properties and depreciation factors. The PRB also discovered the
misapplication of a ‘design factor’ in those neighborhoods that were reviewed by the
Department of Revenue appraisers. These inconsistencies are the result of either poor
training or misapplication of the individual property characteristics and appears to have
been designed to keep the value higher. In either case, this situation should be corrected
before any future assessments are changed.
Training has been insufficient for the staff appraisers to be consistent in grading or
estimating depreciation on structures. The BOA has failed to provide the staff with proper
instructions on what level of assessment the office is trying to achieve and no review is
being conducted to make sure values are equalized. From discussions, it was discovered
that the targeted level of assessment was 90% of fair market value, or 36% assessed
value. And while 36% is an acceptable standard according to the state’s rules and
regulations, it is not an acceptable level of assessment when proposing public utility
values. The lack of an acceptable level of assessment for public utility purposes, has cost
the taxing authorities of Fulton County approximately $23 million in public utility taxes
since 2001. Current staff members appeared to be unaware of this regulation as it affects
the valuation of public utility property.
Residential lot values are derived from a process that is closely tied to the zoning for
particular areas. A base cost is developed, dependent on the minimum-zoning
requirement, and an excess land factor is applied, when the lot exceeds the minimum
requirement. This appraisal methodology has resulted in lots in the same subdivision
having different base rates and excessive rates. The difference in excess land factors was
not caused by differing lot characteristics and could not specifically be explained. It was
Fulton County Performance Review Report Page 7
noted none of the subdivisions in Fulton County used the “flat value method” to ensure
that all lots in a given subdivision are valued at one set price. This is common in other
counties within the State but not utilized by the Fulton County BOA.
The current CAMA system does not provide an option for the appraiser to easily run a
ratio analysis. The analysis is done in conjunction with the county’s IT department. Ratio
studies are conducted county-wide, rather than by subdivisions or neighborhoods which
would improve equalization of property values.
Much time elapses in keeping the appraisal system up-to-date with property transfers and
splits. Many corrections take place after the digest is approved due to the appraisal
system not being current. This causes more work throughout the assessment process and
a large amount of “errors and reliefs” for the tax commissioner to process. The final
digest totals submitted by the Tax Commissioner to the Revenue Commissioner vary
greatly from what is shown in the CAMA system. This is caused by the information
continuously being changed by the assessors’ office after the digest is closed. It is
important that the final digest reflect the taxable properties and the final value determined
by the BOA for each property. These values are used by county, school, and municipal
governing authorities for setting budgets and for submission to the Revenue
Commissioner. Failure to accurately reflect all taxable property values hinders the
Revenue Commissioner from his statutory duty of equalizing county digests between and
A large amount of time is spent by the BOA staff in processing building permits. Much
of this problem is external in that the various municipalities use different permit systems.
A more efficient method of handling permits must be developed so that long lags do not
In summary, the Fulton County appraisal staff is not employing generally accepted mass
appraisal techniques. These techniques and systems need to be re-examined to ensure that
the office can process the massive amounts of information efficiently and accurately.
The Fulton County BOA generally uses proper techniques in the valuation of personal
property and maintains an effective audit and verification program.
The major area of concern identified by the PRB was the discovery and maintenance of
personal property accounts. Comments from the personal property appraisers indicated
that all accounts may not be on the personal property digest. Those interviewed had
concerns about missing accounts but stated it was a very small percentage of the total.
While the number may be a small percentage, it could be as much as several thousand
accounts. A method of review to ensure all accounts are being assessed and listed in the
digest should be derived.
Fulton County Performance Review Report Page 8
Recently, it was discovered that some properties were erroneously being exempted from
property tax. A sample review by employees of the Department of Revenue confirmed
this fact. The origin of this problem stems from the county’s ineffective CAMA and
assessment program. Office procedures indicate that exempt properties are not a high
priority item and are considered a simple project. Few of the employees have taken the
Revenue Department’s course on exempt properties and, therefore, lack the knowledge to
make correct decisions on exemptions. Greater emphasis needs to be put on the review of
exempt properties to ensure that no property is being exempted from property taxes that
does not meet the statutory requirements for exemption. After discovering the problem,
the BOA has begun a review of the exempt properties and is working on a better system
to maintain a more accurate status of the exempt property digest.
During the interview process, the importance of good customer service was discussed.
Feedback given by some employees indicated there were conflicting perceptions whether
or not good customer service practices were in place. Other individuals interviewed
indicated they had encountered some difficulties in getting requested information from
the assessors’ office. One of the PRB members called the main office number in an
effort to ask a general homestead exemption question but was transferred to a voicemail
box. When an office is receiving the criticism the Fulton County BOA is receiving, every
effort possible should be make to answer all inquiries as quickly as possible without
referring the inquirer to an automated system.
All staff members should realize that property owners are ‘customers’ and should be
given the best assistance possible.
It is apparent from talking with staff members that the office suffers from a lack of
morale, most recently caused by the “bad press” the office has received. Most of the
lower level employees believe they are doing what their managers and supervisors
request. However, the BOA has continued to employ a worker in a managerial position
who was found to be changing property values to satisfy a family member. It appears that
most of the employees are afraid of this manager and proceed with caution. In the PRB’s
opinion, employees are afraid to come forward with recommendations or new ideas and
continue to operate under the system of ‘business as usual’. Some staff members have an
attitude that they should remain silent to protect their jobs.
Appraisal Staff Training
The training of the current staff members complies with current statutory requirements,
however the PRB was surprised to learn that only one employee assigned to exempt
property and the ongoing review project had taken the Revenue Department’s Exempt
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The PRB was surprised the chief appraiser, staff employees, and the BOA members did
not appear to know the law regarding the statutory level of assessment of property. The
prevailing thought seemed to be to raise a property that was under assessed only a small
portion each year in order to hold down appeals. The hope was this system would
eventually allow the property to approach market value. However, this situation would
never correct itself given the constant rates of change in the real estate market.
The process of scheduling the hearings of the Board of Equalization is overall effective,
especially when considering the number of tax appeals that are heard annually. However,
the appraiser who valued the property initially is not involved in defending the
assessment as it goes through the appeals process. It is surprising the appraiser, who
represents the BOA, never visits the subject property under appeal and works only from
the existing appraisal file.
Of greater concern is the management of the Board of Equalization by the county
manager. The PRB was told there were occasions when the BOA was ordered by the
county manager to grant second appeal hearings to some property owners. One case, in
particular, was discovered where an appeal to a personal property audit was heard twice
by two different Boards of Equalization. At the first hearing the board of equalization
ruled in favor of the county but the second hearing resulted in a favorable ruling for the
Great care must be taken to ensure that all property owners are given the same appeal
opportunity and that the appeals process is carried out according to the law.
Summary and Recommendations
The Fulton County BOA is definitely operating in an ineffective manner. It is failing to
deliver a tax digest that treats property owners fairly and it is failing to utilize its
resources effectively. The PRB has the following recommendations:
The members of the BOA should be removed. Each member has failed to give
proper oversight to the chief appraiser and, in some cases, its procedures have
created an extra burden on the appraisal staff. The BOA has also failed to work
with the chief appraiser and staff to implement procedures and systems in the
office that would allow them to accomplish their legal responsibilities.
The existing appraisal staff needs to be reorganized. More than an adequate
number of employees exist to do the work, but they are not properly motivated or
utilized in a way to efficiently accomplish their work. In the near future, the BOA
should make a comprehensive study to determine the optimal size of the staff.
A new chief appraiser needs to be selected. The individual must have a complete
understanding of the appraisal process and Georgia Property Tax Law. The chief
appraiser must be qualified to appraise or aid in the appraisal of all property types
and should have managed at least one reappraisal of an entire county before
Fulton County Performance Review Report Page 10
assuming the job. The chief appraiser must be a strategist and have the ability to
plan the work of subordinates to accomplish the desired results. The appraisal
discipline is ever changing and the chief appraiser should successfully complete
the necessary training and develop professional relationships. The chief appraiser
must have the skill set to keep up and assist the staff in all aspects of property
appraisal. In a county such as Fulton, the chief appraiser must also be a manager
and an administrator.
An effort has to be made to update the appraisal system by field reviewing
properties parcel-by-parcel, to ensure that property characteristics reflected on the
records maintained by the BOA are accurate and corrected if found inaccurate.
Many of the problems appear to come from practices of the past and an antiquated
appraisal system. Discrepancies with grading and the estimate of depreciation
have to be corrected and can only be accomplished with an on site inspection of
each property and the coordination of all appraisers to ensure consistency in
grading and depreciation.
All land and improvement schedules should be evaluated to ensure uniformity of
application within neighborhoods. This is the only way that the taxpayers of
Fulton County can be assured that they are paying no more or less than their fair
share of the tax burden, particularly because of the misapplication of property
data and the lack of a comprehensive revaluation in almost 15 years.
The BOA should request the Department of Revenue assist them in evaluating its
new CAMA system. This is the most important tool in facilitating the mass
appraisal process and must meet the needs of appraising property accurately, and
interface with the collection system being utilized by the Tax Commissioner’s
office. The new system has cost Fulton County taxpayers approximately $4.5
million, yet it has not been tested to determine that it meets the needs of the
appraisal staff and has the ability to generate accurate valuations. The lack of on-
going testing further indicates the ineffectiveness of the chief appraiser to provide
proper oversight of the implementation of the new CAMA system.
Proper oversight by the BOA and interaction with the chief appraiser is necessary
to efficiently complete the work of the office. Care should be taken to assure that
the meetings of the BOA are orderly and productive. It is that board’s
responsibility to set policies and give oversight to the office. The BOA members
must recognize the importance of allowing the chief appraiser and staff to work
within the appraisal process rather than conducting detailed reviews of individual
appraisals and arbitrary changes to property values.
The county governing authority must comply with the laws requiring that it adopt
resolutions staggering the term lengths of BOA members to ensure that the
majority of the members’ terms do not end simultaneously.
The PRB recommends the number of assessors be changed from 5 to 3. A smaller
board would result in more efficient work, add order to the meetings, provide
better feedback to the staff, and ultimately help reduce costs.
Fulton County Performance Review Report Page 11
The PRB recommends that the county attorney review the procedures for
administration of the board of equalization with the county manager and establish
a course of action to ensure that the actions of the Board of Equalization are fair
Documentation of the methods used by the BOA appraisal staff to appraise
property should be available, including the appraisal techniques used and all
schedules and tables.
The BOA should implement a plan to have the staff ensure that all personal
property accounts are included on the digest and assessed appropriately. The staff
is doing a good job with audits, but it is important that all accounts be on the
digest. The fairness of a personal property audit is diminished when there are
some business accounts going untaxed.
The PRB recommends that the BOA establish a plan to improve the relationship
with the property owners of Fulton County, as well as the relationship between
the BOA and the county and city governing authorities.
The problems with the assessors’ office are not the fault of a single individual or event.
The issues that arise from frequently changing chief appraisers, moving from a full-time
to a part-time BOA, a long passing of time between comprehensive value updates, and
political stresses have left the office with many shortfalls. Training, resources,
management, and proper oversight by the BOA are key issues that must be addressed if
the appraisal staff is going to be successful. Obviously, it is of great importance that good
relations exist between the BOA, staff, county governing authority, property owners, and
other county department officials.
The local tax issues of the county can be resolved with a competent BOA and a qualified
chief appraiser and staff, along with a proper amount of time to cure the internal
deficiencies. Additionally, great care should be taken to keep the BOA’s office removed
from the political process.
Respectfully submitted March 24, 2006
Chuck Nazerian, Chairman
Lamar Sims, Member
George Hanson, Member
Note: This report reflects conditions within the Fulton County Board of Assessors office as of the
start date of this review.
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