FORT VALLEY, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) - A middle Georgia property owner is trying to figure out why she is paying such a high tax rate on her government subsidized homes.
United States Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) Rural Development property owner Marilyn McDowell says the Peach County chief tax assessor, Dennis Lee, is to blame.
McDowell owns more than 10 acres of land on Brooks Boulevard in Fort Valley, Georgia where her father built low-income housing units for single and multiple families.
In 2009, she noticed slight increases to her tax rates, but this year she witnessed an unfair raise in her property taxes, which prompted her to take action.
The adjusted fair market value of her properties range from $700,000 to 1.5 million dollars–an increase she was not prepared for.
McDowell set to file a Fair Housing Act complaint this year, and after the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (H.U.D.) investigated, a determination made said "racial profiling and discrimination" is the underlying issue.
H.U.D. made the determination after comparing and contrasting tax rates, socioeconomic status and demographics within the area.
More than 99 percent of McDowell's tenants are African-Americans living in poverty.
"The tenants that I'm talking about here are a protective class tenants, and based on my research this is the highest assessed property tax value in the state of Georgia," says McDowell.
She adds, "Peach County is taking too much, because they take too much in real property taxes."
In order for McDowell to keep the apartments, she needs more money. The raise on taxes suspend her maintenance budget, which leaves tenants with a possibility of molded carpet, failing air-conditioning units, broken water faucets, and ultimately, unsafe homes.
According to property tax research, the residents of her three rural development apartment complexes–Westside, Phase III and Phase IV–pay thirteen cents for every property tax dollar compared to the state average--five cents for every dollar.
"As a manager, I can't do the amount of maintenance I would like to do on the apartments," says McDowell, "I mean it's just tragic."
She consulted with managing partner of Property Tax Eagle in Valdosta, Georgia-Craig Cardella-to better understand the encounter she faced.
He says he plans to do everything to help McDowell prove her case, and the raise in property taxes is unlawful.
"Unfair taxation in the state of Georgia is very specific. The Georgia Department of Revenue requires all tax assessors in the state of Georgia to follow specific guidelines on how to value property," Cardella says, "In Peach County that's not being done."
He added the "county turned this property over to the sheriff's department to collect taxes that she can't afford to pay, because they're basically taxing her out of existence."
41 NBC's Taylor Terrell reached out to Lee, and he denied any comments at this time. He instructed her to speak with the attorney who represents the case.
McDowell says all she wants is fair treatment and justice.