Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Coleman v. Glynn County

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Fourth Division

January 22, 2018

COLEMAN, et al.
v.
GLYNN COUNTY, GEORGIA. COLEMAN, et al.
v.
GLYNN COUNTY, GEORGIA. COLEMAN, et al.
v.
GLYNN COUNTY, GEORGIA.

          DILLARD, C. J., RAY and SELF, JJ.

          RAY, JUDGE.

         J. Matthew Coleman, IV and Elizabeth Blair Coleman ("the Colemans") filed three class action lawsuits on behalf of themselves and all taxpayers similarly situated seeking refunds for taxes that were overpaid based on Glynn County's incorrect application of a local homestead exemption. On the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment in each case, the trial court entered a consolidated order denying the Colemans' motion and granting summary judgment to Glynn County. In three related appeals, the Colemans appeal from the trial court's judgment.[1] In Case Nos. A17A1843, A17A1844, and A17A1845, the primary issue on appeal is whether the trial court erred in construing the terms of the homestead exemption. A secondary issue is whether the trial court erred in barring a portion of the asserted claims. These appeals are consolidated for the purposes of review. For the reasons that follow, we affirm in part and reverse in part in each case.

         The record shows that in 2000 the Georgia Legislature passed House Bills 1690 and 1691, which were local legislation providing the residents of Glynn County with a homestead exemption from ad valorem property taxes for county and school purposes (hereinafter collectively referred to as the "Act" or the "Exemption"). The Act provides that the amount of the Exemption shall be "equal to the amount by which the current year assessed value of that homestead exceeds the base year assessed value of that homestead." Further, the term "base year" as defined in the Act "means the taxable year immediately preceding the taxable year in which the exemption under this Act is first granted to the most recent owner of such homestead."

         On or about July 21, 2005, the Colemans purchased certain real property in Glynn County known as Tax Parcel Number 04-01187. The Colemans applied for the Exemption on February 1, 2006. Their application was granted in 2006, and the Colemans' homestead exemption was in effect for the 2006 tax year. However, Glynn County used and continues to use 2006, as opposed to 2005, as the base year for calculating the amount of their homestead exemption. The assessed value for the property in 2006 was $133, 800, whereas the assessed value of the property in 2005 was $70, 006.

         On or about November 10, 2011, the Colemans filed a written request with the Glynn County Tax Commissioner, pursuant to OCGA § 48-5-380 (b), for a refund of the taxes that they overpaid in tax years 2008-2010 based on the use of the improper base year in calculating their exemption amount. Glynn County did not respond to their request. Consequently, the Colemans filed their first class action lawsuit against Glynn County on November 20, 2012, seeking a refund of all overpaid ad valorem taxes for tax years 2008-2010, as well as mandamus, declaratory, injunctive, and other equitable relief for the refund of all overpaid ad valorem taxes for tax years 2001-2010. Thereafter, the trial court entered an order certifying four classes, comprised of:

Glynn County property owners receiving the [ ] Exemption in the calculation of their tax bills in [any year between 2001-2010] and for whom Glynn County used the year in which the [ ] Exemption was first granted as the Base Year rather than the immediately preceding year in calculating the exemption amount under the [ ] Act for property tax bills in [any year between 2001-2010] and for whom the value frozen in the year in which the [ ] Exemption was first granted is greater than the value in the immediately preceding year[.]

         The first class is comprised of taxpayers who paid taxes between 2001-2007, which contains separate subclasses for each year. The second, third, and fourth classes are comprised of taxpayers who paid taxes in 2008, 2009, and 2010, respectively.

         On or about November 20, 2012, the Colemans filed a written request with the Glynn County Tax Commissioner, pursuant to OCGA § 48-5-380 (b), for a refund of the taxes that they overpaid in tax years 2011-2012 based on the use of the improper base year in calculating their exemption amount. Glynn County did not respond to their request. Consequently, the Colemans filed their second class action lawsuit against Glynn County on November 27, 2013, seeking a refund of all overpaid ad valorem taxes for tax years 2011-2012, as well as mandamus, declaratory, injunctive, and other equitable relief . The trial court granted class certification in the second lawsuit, defining that class as:

Glynn County property owners receiving the [ ] Exemption in the calculation of their tax bills in 2011 or 2012 for whom Glynn County used the year in which the [ ] Exemption was first granted as the Base Year rather than the immediately preceding year in calculating the exemption amount under the [ ] Act for property tax bills in 2011 or 2012 and for whom the value frozen in the year in which the [ ] Exemption was first granted is greater than the value in the immediately preceding year.

         On July 16, 2014, the Colemans filed their third class action lawsuit against Glynn County, seeking a refund of all overpaid ad valorem taxes for tax year 2013, later amended to include tax years 2014-2016, based on the continued use of the improper base year in calculating their exemption amount. The trial court granted class certification in the third lawsuit, ultimately defining that class as:

Glynn County property owners receiving the [ ] Exemption in the calculation of their tax bills in 2013, 2014, 2015 or 2016 for whom Glynn County used the year in which the [ ] Exemption was first granted as the Base Year rather than the immediately preceding year in calculating the exemption amount under the [ ] Act for property tax bills in 2013, 2014, 2015 or 2016 and for whom the value frozen in the year in which the [ ] Exemption was first granted is greater than the value in the immediately preceding year.

         The Colemans and Glynn County filed cross-motions for summary judgment in each case. The primary issue was the proper interpretation of the term "base year" as it is defined in the Act, and a secondary issue was whether the plaintiffs could seek refunds for taxes payed more than three years before the demand for refund was made. After oral argument, the trial court ruled that Glynn County properly applied the Exemption and that the Coleman's base year was properly determined to be 2006, reasoning that "the effective date of [the Colemans'] exemption was January 1, 2007." The trial court further ruled that, even if the base year had been improperly determined under the Act, the Colemans would be barred from seeking a refund of taxes overpaid prior to 2008 and the class members would be barred from seeking a refund of taxes overpaid prior to 2010. Accordingly, the trial court entered a consolidated order denying the Colemans' motion for partial summary judgment and granting summary judgment to Glynn County. The Colemans' appeals ensued.

         1. In several related enumerations of error, the Colemans contend that the trial court erred in ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.