The Augusta Tax Hike and Your Property Assessment

On July 28th I commented on the millage rate increase passed by the Augusta Commission. After what was apparently a strong showing of displeasure by the taxpayers, the Commission voted no to the tax increase.

What changed? Mary Davis and Donnie Smith, who voted in favor of the increase less than a month ago, did not support the increase yesterday. I have found no public comment regarding the change of heart.

Some people have commented that instead of raising the millage rates to increase tax revenue, the county assessor should reassess and increase the value of  properties. Last year when I appealed my tax assessment (successfully) I got a first hand look at how the assessor’s system works.

Pursuant to the relevant statute, the property is supposed to be assessed at its fair market value on January 1.  In preparing my appeal, I looked at all the sales in my neighborhood over the last several years and the values at which the houses were assessed.

By looking at the MLS and other online listings and comparing those listings to the property records kept by the assessor’s office it was apparent that the assessor’s office does not have accurate information on MANY houses in the neighborhood. Numerous houses have second levels or other amenities which are unaccounted for by they assessor’s office.

By adding the unaccounted for square footage, the city would stand to gain a significant amount of money without raising the millage rate. This could be effectuated by simply comparing the tax assessor’s records to the for sale listings online.

That brings me to my second point:  The assessment for many houses (not the ones with unaccounted for square feet) is already well above the house’s fair market value. Fair market value is defined as “the amount a knowledgeable buyer would pay for the property and a willing seller would accept for the property at an arm’s length, bona fide sale.” O.C.G.A. Section 48-5-2(3).

After studying the sales in the neighborhood and comparing them to the assessed values of the properties, it is apparent that the tax assessor already assesses most properties above their fair market value. To advocate for a blanket increase of assessed values is simply wrong.

In short, the people who believe another way of going about the tax increase would be to increase the assessments of properties have it right with respect to increasing the accuracy of the property records. However, many, if not most, properties are already assessed above their fair market values.



Zillow’s opposition to the trademark application for “LOANZILLA” was denied. What I found interesting, however, was not the decision nor the Board’s rationale, but Zillow’s explanation on how it got its name. Is this believable??? To me, hardly:

“The Zillow name evolved from the desire to make zillions of data points for homes accessible to everyone. And, since a home is about more than just data – it is where you lay your head to rest at night, like a pillow – ‘Zillow’ was born.”

What do you think? Is the real meaning of the name? You can find the opinion here.


The O’Bannon Case

I finally got around to reading all of Judge Claudia Wilken’s 99 page verdict in the O’Bannon v. NCAA case. You can entertain yourself with it here.

By now everyone knows that the NCAA lost and that the NCAA will appeal the decision. What this means for the long term structure of the NCAA and Division I universities’ relationships with athletes will likely not be clear for some time. I just wanted to comment on a few of the findings:

  • The judge found that there was no viable alternative to Division I athletics for the recruits. She diminished the role professional European Leagues have begun to play in competing for basketball players straight out of high school. This trend started with Brandon Jennings and is most recently evidenced by Emmanuel Mudiay’s decision to skip college in favor of playing professional basketball in China. I don’t totally disagree with the Judge’s opinion, particularly with respect to football, but high school basketball players do have the legitimate option to join professional leagues rather than play Division I basketball.
  • On page 22 of the opinion, the Judge states that after the “recruit’s decision to attend and play for a particular school, the school provides tuition, room and board, fees, and book expenses, often at little or no cost to the school.” Yes, the schools do provide these things for the athletes but they also provide other amenities, academic support, training, equipment, counseling, etc. that simply aren’t available to the general student population. To act as if there is no other benefit for the athletes other than tuition and room and board is naive at best.
  • Apparently the NCAA did a terrible job presenting their evidence. The Court tore the survey the NCAA conducted, in an effort to show people liked Division I sports because of amateurism, to shreds.
  • After the plaintiffs satisfied their initial burden, the NCAA had to show, among other things, the regulations placed on universities regarding the benefits they can give athletes have the effect of balancing competition. The Judge did not buy the NCAA’s argument at all: “The only quantitative evidence that the NCAA presented related to competitive balance is a cursory statistical analysis … comparing the levels of competitive balance in [Division I] to the levels in the NFL and NBA….his analysis does not suggest that the NCAA’s challenged rules actually produce the levels of competitive balance he observed.” p. 36. The Judge stated that instead of spending money on the athletes, the colleges spend the money on recruiting budgets, coaching salaries, and facilities. She believes that this “cancels out whatever leveling effect the restrictions placed on student-athlete pay might otherwise have.” I have to strongly disagree with her on this point. While it is not in front of the court, if there were no salary cap, what it is in effect, then the elite of the elite would create even wider gaps between the conference bottom feeders and non-power 5 schools. In my opinion, you would wind up with Alabama, Texas, USC and schools of that ilk being completely dominate. While those schools might have nicer weight rooms and facilities, there is only so much value a recruit can place on that. Instead, if the recruit were offered a 5k dollar stipend to go to Mississippi State and a 50k dollar stipend to go to Alabama, there is little question that the money difference has the ability to change the recruit’s mind more than any difference in facilities. On page 63, the Judge recognizes that without the current restrictions, “schools would compete against one another by offering to pay more for the best recruits’ athletic services….” However, she did not find that such bidding would create unfair competition. I find that conclusion naive as well.
  • Along the same line, the NCAA’s expert failed to convince the judge that competitive balance even had an effect on the popularity of college sports: “his analysis did not show that consumer demand for [Division I sports] would decrease if [the] teams were less competitively balanced than they currently are.” p. 84. Obviously the NCAA’s expert failed in convincing the judge that a substantial portion of the popularity is due to the parity of the sports. I also find this conclusion unavailing and unrealistic.

Some of the Judge’s highlights and lowlights:

  • “In short, non-FBS and non-Division I schools do not compete with FBS and Division I schools…on the football field….”p. 53. She obviously missed Georgia Southern’s upset of Florida in November.
  • On pages 80 and 81, she bashes the NCAA for their inconsistency pointing out that a tennis player may maintain his amateur status even though he accepts up to 10k the year before enrolling. Yet a track and field athlete would forfeit his eligibility by doing the same.
  • Although the NCAA maintains this rule promotes competitive balance, the Judge notes on page 91, that a more simple way to do this would to be to spread the money between Division I schools equally. Instead, “its current formula primarily rewards the schools that already have the largest athletic budgets. This uneven distribution of revenues runs counter to the association’s stated goal of promoting competitive balance.”
  • The Judge states that the schools and the NCAA are converting (stealing) athletes’ rights by selling the right to use the athletes’ names, images, and likenesses to television networks: The schools give the networks assurances that they have the legal right to sell the likenesses and “Such assurances might constitute conversion by the schools of the student-athletes’ rights, or otherwise be unlawful….”

Follow-up on the “Baseball Rule”

Last week I posted about the recent Georgia Court of Appeals case revolving around a fan being injured by a foul ball. This led me to do some investigation of some similar claims.

In 2003 the Georgia Court of Appeals held that neither the Braves nor Andruw Jones were responsible for a ball thrown by Jones into the outfield stands between innings.

In reaching their decision, the Court cited a case from 1949 which stated “[O]ne who buys a ticket for the purpose of witnessing a baseball game and who chooses or accepts a seat in a portion of the grandstand which his own observation will readily inform him is unprotected, voluntarily assumes the risks inherent in such a position, since he must be presumed to know that there is a likelihood of wild balls being thrown and landing in the grandstand or other unprotected areas.” Dalton v. Jones, 260 Ga. App. 791, 792 (2003) (citing Hunt v. Thomasville Baseball Co., 80 Ga.App. 572, 56 S.E.2d 828 (1949)).

In other words, the plaintiff assumed the risk that a ball may be thrown into the stands and cannot recover for an injury sustained by such a throw. Will the Court differentiate a thrown ball from a batted ball? Or differentiate between the location of the seats?

As I head out to the ballpark tonight, I hope nobody in attendance has to confront these questions!


Insurance Policies for “Amateur” Athletes

Last month many news outlets released stories regarding universities purchasing insurance policies for their star athletes. These insurance policies protect players in the event they suffer an injury causing them to be unable to play the sport or in certain cases if they slide in the draft due to injury.

This story blew up when the press revealed that Texas A&M paid more than $50,000 for an insurance policy to protect their star offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi. Ogbuehi would have been a first round selection in the 2014 draft but chose to stay in school, presumably, at least in part, because of Texas A&M’s agreement to pay for the insurance policy.

Texas A&M was able to do this using money from the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund (it also is now being reported that Florida State using this fund to insure Jameis Winston).

I found this on the NCAA’s website explaining the guidelines for the fund. The guidelines, from last year, indicate that over 73 million dollars will be sent to Division I conference offices. The money is “intended to provide direct benefits to student-athletes or their families as determined by conference offices.” It makes you wonder why this money can’t be used to feed hungry student-athletes?

The NCAA, not known for making consistent decisions, is apparently fine with allowing schools to use this money to basically pay a player to stay in school for another year, but frowns upon players for eating too much pasta at a banquet.

The NCAA has been walking a fine line between amateur and professional athletics for decades. Personally, I am strongly opposed paying college athletes and believe that the stipend will be the end of college athletics as we know it. Once the genie is out of the bottle it will never return. The few thousand dollars people propose to pay athletes now will never be enough and the demands for more money will never go away.



Grunting in Tennis

Last month researches from the University of Nebraska released a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research  showing that tennis players who grunt have a higher ball velocity than those who don’t.

I would never have guessed that grunting actually helps. Even though this study shows that there may be benefits to grunting, it doesn’t mean that the grunting is any less tiresome to hear.