Sunday, October 2, 2016

In a message dated 10/4/2016 1:51:44 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes:

In response to your direct question to me, I fully approve of and expect our web services vendor (or any professional payment processing and/or data housing vendor) to consistently monitor our website usage.

I also 100% approve of blocking any and all non-routine usage (including large or frequent queries) until such usage is vetted and confirmed as non-threatening to the overall integrity, performance and security of Cobbtax.orgHaving to wait 15-30 minutes or up to 6 hours after submitting an online request, is well within the Open Records standard of responding to a written request for information within 3 business days and therefore very acceptable. 

While your usage of our website as a citizen journalist is not typical, we will certainly attempt to accommodate your research.   Sturgis has provided a recommendation to prevent being blocked going forward and has instructed that if you need immediate assistance, call 1-866-219-1476.

This process may seem a bit convoluted and a needless impediment to you, but I see it as a necessity in today’s cyber environment.  Though you do not care about scammers and scrapers, it is imperative that I care.  Our website facilitates confidential online payments and other transactional processes, in addition to providing informational data.  It is my duty to care, not just about your convenience in accessing data, but to care about the convenience and security of all 10,000 plus customers and taxpayers who use our site weekly.  

Our goal at The Cobb County Tax Commissioner’s Office is to deliver exceptional customer service, which includes providing safety for our online transactions and dispersal of accurate and reliable information.  Our process may seem a bit convoluted to you.  However, knowing that we are making strides towards meeting that goal gives me great satisfaction.

As always, thank you for reaching out to me.  If you need anything else, do not hesitate to contact me again.


Carla Jackson, CPA
Cobb County Tax Commissioner
770.528.8600 (voice)
770.528.8636 (fax)

From: []
Sent: Tuesday, October 04, 2016 1:09 AM
To: Jackson, Carla; Grosse, Kathy
Subject: Re: Citizens Concern - IP Blocking for your Cobb County Internet site

Ms. Carla Jackson
Cobb County Tax Commissioner

Since the matter of blocking citizens of Cobb County from access to the site has been copied to various people in Sturgis Web Services, I will continue the chain although this question is really one for you Ms. Jackson, as head of the department.

My direct question for you is:
Did you request or approve of Sturgis Web Services and/or their un-named vendor in their stealth limiting of taxpayers access to your department's records and the blocking of individuals IP addresses so inquiries could not be made?

My initial inquiries (3) of your department personnel would seem to indicate that your department, at least the three I spoke to, with my initial complaint, were unaware of any reason that any individual would be denied access to your departments records.

Now that Sturgis Web Services has provided the information below, my follow up question is:
If you were previously unaware of the blocking of IP addresses of those deemed to have made 'to many' inquiries of your site, do you approve of having Citizens being arbitrarily blocked by Sturgis and their un-named vendor, from obtaining Cobb County tax information?

The convoluted procedure described below to be 'unblock' is a needless impediment to those attempting to obtain information from your department.

In the 10 or so years of having accessed your web site I have NOT had this problem come up, probably it is a new application (Avalon).  I categorically reject their reasons for the stealth blocking of Citizens IP addresses to freeze out Citizen inquires of tax information and I could not care less about their woes in dealing with 'scrapers and scammers'.

To have to wait 6 or so hours and put in a special application to them to have my IP address 'unblocked' is entirely unacceptable.

If your contract with them allows them to do this then you need to void this contract and find another web service firm.

If they have imposed this blocking on their own, then you as County Tax Commissioner, need to immediately tell them to cease and desist in hindering Citizens usage of your tax site.

I would like to hear from you personally, at the earliest possible date with your reply to the concerns raised herein.

Please note that all information provided is for publication.

Bill Harris
Citizen Journalist


In a message dated 10/3/2016 4:56:25 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes:
Good Afternoon Mr. Harris,
With our new website search functionality, Sturgis now tracks access to our customers’ web sites as a security measure. We will block excessive access to our tax sites primarily to prevent site scrapers and spammers who attempt to extract data and overload our servers.  Sturgis has found that this is a common practice that happens frequently, especially on data/tax search sites. When this occurs, this activity can affect search efficiency for all web site users.  When Sturgis customer support receives the online request, we will attempt to unblock as soon as possible, normally within 15-30  minutes but the unblock can be delayed by an hour or more based on our work queue. At any time you need immediate attention,  please call us at 1-866-219-1476 and we will be glad to manually unblock your IP. We do apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.

The blocking is based on record lookups and pageviews, which essentially represent 1 server access each.  Once you are blocked, unless Sturgis unblocks manually, you won’t be unblocked for approximately 6 hours. However, say you are close to the access limit but have not reached the threshold. If you stop searching at that point, your count is reset after 30 minutes. Depending upon how you are searching, my best advice is search for 30-40 properties (each record could represent 2-4 views), wait 30 minutes and then search again. I hope this methodology is helpful in searching the site. Again, if you’re on a deadline, call us and we will be glad to manually unblock.

While we receive several requests, we do not make it a practice to whitelist individual IP addresses. Sturgis is currently working on a subscription model that will give you unlimited monthly access to all of the sites we host. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you.

Lori Nielsen
Customer Service & Operations Administrator
1184 Springmaid Avenue, Suite 101
Fort Mill, SC  29708

From: []
Sent: Monday, October 03, 2016 4:30 PM
To: Lori Nielsen <>
Subject: Reply to: Your IP is unblocked

Yes, I can confirm  that my IP is now unblocked. 

I have also gotten your below incoming and I am sure your firms site meter would show that I did nowhere near 200 searches within 30 minutes, so right off the bat you site or the vendor's is malfunctioning. 

Just on the practical side, I did not need 200 searches and even if I did I could not possibly type/enter that many requests in 30 minutes.  I have used the Cobbtax site for about 10 years without this blocking, must be relatively new program and unneeded!

My site usage was probably spread out over an hour before my being shut out and it might have been for 50 inputs +/-, although I was back and forth to the Cobb Assessors site during this same time frame.  (This issue did not affect the Assessors site, it always worked fine and never shut me out)

Whatever is going on either with CobbTax, sturgiswebservices or this vendor, you need to stop limiting taxpayers access to this public data site.  I have wasted 4 hours this afternoon on this foolishness.  Cobbtax seems to be unaware of what is going on and I wonder if you or the vendor have permission to deny service to citizens wanting local tax information.

Between the 3 groups above I would like a comprehensive reply and assurances that such nonsense will not continue, either with me or others who use the site.

I believe this will be an interesting topic for our local newspaper.


Mr. Harris,
I apologize for your inconvenience.   Our website vendor has implemented functionality that will block your searches when you have done more than 200 within 30 minutes.  This functionality was implemented in a effort to prevent data mining.  When you receive this error, you should be provided a request form.  Please complete this request and the web vendor will unblock you from further searches. 
Thank You

In a message dated 10/3/2016 3:55:08 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes:

Your IP Address has been unblocked. Thank you for your patience.
Lori Nielsen
Customer Service & Operations Administrator
1184 Springmaid Avenue, Suite 101
Fort Mill, SC  29708


Sunday, October 2, 2016


Davey Crockett
Davey Crockett asked Jim Sebastian Kennesaw City Councilman:
Inquiry: Revival on Main Street
Cobb County 2015 Tax Records show that last year this 4.9 acre property, (Parcel ID #20013800950) usually referred to as Revival on Main Street, was owned by ‘SCP Kennesaw Main Owner, LLC’ and it was sold on Aug. 10, 2016 to ‘Wilkinson Kennesaw I, LLC’ for $44,500,000.
So far so good, but the 2016 Cobb County Tax Bill shows the owner information for this parcel as ‘Urban Redevelopment Agency of The City of Kennesaw Georgia 2825 S Main St” with its mailing address at City Hall.
How does this municipal agency come into play for what we call the Revival on Main St?
I also note that this county temporary tax bill of $180,611.29 is under appeal with the Board of Tax Assessors. Can you provide any clarity on this?
Jim Sebastian • Oct 4
Get the Story about Kennesaw
Regarding the URA, the name on the tax bill is due to tax billing procedures . . .
Cobb Tax Site >>> Ownership/Appraisal Data is based on the ownership as of January 1 of each year. Any purchases of property or other changes in ownership after January 1 will not display until the next Tax Digest is posted to the website in June.
As for the appeal, I am guessing it has to do with the ownership change that happened after January 1st making only a portion of the development taxable as the parking deck is owned by the city and municipalities are tax-exempt. This is more complex than a normal sale of property . . .
Cobb Tax Site >>> If you own property on January 1, you are responsible for the tax for the entire year even if you sell the property on January 2. Buyers and sellers usually agree by contract to prorate tax as part of the closing process.
I will double check to assure the above answers are correct.
Jim Sebastian • Oct 5
Get the Story about Kennesaw
I have some further information to clarify what was found regarding the tax bill . . . I trust this will satisfactorily address this question.
As mentioned, the entire property (residential, retail, parking) was assigned to the URA as the owner before the development was completed. When completed, the property was subdivided into two parcels with the city purchasing the parking deck and associated surface parking. Cobb County did not capture this correctly in their records and issued an incorrect 2016 tax bill for the property. They issued an assessment and tax bill in the name of the URA.
The city does not have record of ever having received the tax notification. Consequently, we were unaware and were never notified of the error until approximately 10-12 days ago when the Finance department discovered it when doing some research to prepare for our audit.
Cobb County was contacted and has been working to sort out the issue(s). In addition, we contacted the city attorney to work on it with Cobb County and South City Partners closing attorney to correct. We received an update from the County on Friday that the error has been confirmed, revised and corrected tax bills will be issued.
Finally, since the transfer of ownership to URA occurred after January 1, it will not be tax exempt until 2017. The city has already filed for exemption for 2017.
Craig Kootsillas • Oct 6
Had this paperwork error not been discovered, would taxes have been paid?
Jim Sebastian • Oct 6
Get the Story about Kennesaw
I assure you it would not have been paid.
Davey Crockett • 10-9-16
Cobb County Tax has had a poor track record for years so this latest goof should not be a major surprise to Cobb residents. At least this minor screw up is sorted out.
Getting online access to records via is now much more difficult as I found out when doing research on what turned out to be this incorrect Kennesaw billing.
In August their web service provider put into effect the ‘AVALON’ program and if you spend what they consider ‘to much’ time looking at their Cobb Tax records your IP address is banned and you have to put in an ‘appeal’ to get the ban recinded.
Tax Comm. Jackson, who took over from Downing, when she quit with 2 wks notice, is of the opinion that such banning for to much looking at records is just fine. Cobb Tax remains a very poorly run operation.
More info on the tax office is at:

Contact me at:
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Davey Crockett
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The Kennesaw Watch's photo.

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Contact Agencies FYI

Georgia Dept of Revenue and

Tax Appeal Atlanta - (Note: A commercial site with Tax info)

Fair Assessments - (Note: A commercial site with Tax info)

Georgia Property Tax Information -
(Note: A commercial site with Tax info)

Cobb County Tax Commissioner and


Want to contact this Tax Office via email? Here are their addresses FYI:

(Drop them a line and tell them what you think of their office)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tax Commissioner to Resign Dec. 31

Gail Downing's tenure as Cobb County's Tax Commissioner will end on Dec. 31

By Justin Ove (Patch Staff) - December 18, 2013

Cobb County's tax commissioner will resign at the end of 2013 after an 11-year tenure at the post.

Gail Downing has announced that she is retiring on Dec. 31, 2013, in order to spend more time with her family. Her immediate successor will be Carla Jackson, who will be sworn into office on Dec. 30 and start work on Jan. 1, 2014.

A reception to honor Downing will be held on Jan. 3 at the Whitlock Inn in Marietta.


Updated:  Sunday, July 1, 2012
Location may sway tax appeals
Bita Honarvar 

Harold Cunliffe’s evidence for lower property taxes was rejected by Fulton County officials, so he took them to court -- and he won. The county wound up paying his legal fees as well as lowering his taxes. Above, he is shown in front of some of the vacant lots he owns. 

By David Wickert

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 

Harold Cunliffe got $3,500 knocked off his Fulton County property tax bill, but it took a lawsuit to do it.

Yvonne Elliott contested her Gwinnett County tax assessment and saved more than $400 on her tax bill without even appearing before a local appeals board. 

Each year, tens of thousands residents across metro Atlanta protest the assessed values local governments use to calculate their taxes. Their odds of winning those appeals depend, in part, on where they live, an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found.

Residents of Clayton, Fayette and Gwinnett counties were the most successful, the newspaper determined. Douglas, Rockdale and Cobb county residents had the worst chance of success.

Explanations for the different outcomes vary. Critics say some counties are unfairly stingy when it comes to appeals. They say appraisers are trying to protect government budgets, which rely heavily on property taxes that have tumbled along with home values.

"They just don’t want to budge (on property values)," said tax consultant Philip Johns. "They’re holding tight on that dollar."

County appraisers say property owners get a fair shake in the appeals process. They attributed the disparate results to real estate market forces and other factors.

"I believe the idea that you can’t fight city hall is wrong," said Cobb County Chief Appraiser Phil Hogsed. "If you have a serious problem with your home value, the system works."

The AJC analyzed the outcome of more than 120,000 residential property appeals in 11 metro Atlanta counties from 2010 and 2011. It examined only finalized appeals.

Among the findings:

-- More than eight of 10 Clayton County residential property owners won at least a 10 percent reduction — the informal benchmark some tax professionals use to judge whether an appeal is successful. So did about three of four Fayette and Gwinnett residents.

-- Only 40 percent of residential property owners in Douglas County won at least a 10 percent reduction, as did about 43 percent of Rockdale and 46 percent of Cobb owners.

-- Success rates were 60 percent in DeKalb and Cherokee counties, 57 percent in Fulton and 56 percent in Henry and Forsyth.

-- When it came to the size of the typical reduction, Cherokee County came out on top. The median reduction in value in Cherokee was nearly 36 percent. (In any range of values, half lie below the median and half lie above it.) Cobb, at the other end of spectrum, had a median reduction in value of 17 percent.

County appraisers use real estate sales and other information to determine the value of property each year. Those values, along with tax rates set by elected officials, determine how much owners pay in state and local property taxes.

In virtually every part of the region, home values have plummeted in the wake of the Great Recession. In response, county appraisers have cut values by billions of dollars. But three AJC investigations in recent years have shown that county appraisals failed to reflect the actual decline in values.

Two counties — Clayton and Gwinnett — where the newspaper found the greatest discrepancies between appraisals and true values were also among the counties granting the largest number of appeals, according to the new AJC analysis.

Chief Appraiser Steve Pruitt attributed Gwinnett’s high appeals success rate in part to the prevalence of foreclosures, which lower values for surrounding properties and make it easier for owners to win reductions.

Appraisers say they welcome appeals. Often, it’s a chance for counties to learn about significant changes — like storm damage or demolished buildings — that affect values. (Appraisers rely on market data rather than physically inspecting each neighborhood.)

"If [appraisers] don’t know about it, they can’t consider it," said Cherokee County Chief Appraiser John Adams.

Dissatisfied owners can seek a reduction in value through three procedural levels. First they appeal to the local board of tax assessors. If they don’t get what they think is fair, they can turn to a board of equalization, a citizen panel that conducts formal hearings. If they’re still not satisfied, they can appeal to Superior Court.

Appeals procedures are spelled out in state law, but there’s plenty of room for interpretation when it comes to property values. Owners say their evidence is sometimes ignored.

Fulton County officials rejected Cunliffe’s evidence, so he took them to court. Ultimately they conceded his properties were worth what Cunliffe said they were and paid his $22,182 legal bill. The county also spent at least $4,200 on its own legal costs — all in what Cunliffe sees as an unsuccessful bid to try to keep $3,500 in tax revenue.

"As a taxpayer in Fulton, that breaks my heart," he said.

Fulton Chief Appraiser David Fitzgibbon said his office erred in not settling with Cunliffe sooner.

"We should never let a case go to court where it’s going to cost us more, even if we win it, than we would collect in taxes on it," Fitzgibbon said.

Elliott had a far easier time with her Gwinnett County appeal. She hired a tax consultant who negotiated a 20 percent reduction in the value of her Lawrenceville home. Her tax savings: $413 a year.

"That’s a lot of money," Elliott said. "I was really happy."

Jeff George of Property Tax Advisors of America called Gwinnett "the fairest one out there." Though he doesn't always win appeals for his clients, George said Gwinnett will lower values if he presents solid evidence.

By contrast, George said, Cobb County officials resist lowering values even in the face of substantial evidence. He believes the county’s boards of equalization, which are supposed to be independent, are too cozy with county assessors.

 "You don’t get a fair shake there," George said.

But Hogsed, the county’s chief appraiser, said Cobb appraisers lower values when owners let them know about changes affecting the value. He said many of those changes occur without a formal appeal and wouldn’t be accounted for in the newspaper’s analysis.

Johns, the tax consultant, believes Douglas appraisers are trying to protect the county budget. He said an appraiser once told him during an appeal mediation session the county might have to close schools if property values continued to fall.

"Maybe you don’t need to shut our schools down," Johns said. "Maybe you need to trim some of this fat government you’ve got over here."

Douglas Chief Appraiser Benny Waldrop rejected the idea that his staff is trying to protect tax revenue by fighting appeals. He said Douglas appraisers are conservative about lowering values, just as they were conservative about raising values when the market was booming.

"When we were conservative about going up, people didn’t mind so much," Waldrop said.

State Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, sponsored a 2010 law that made it easier for property owners to appeal, but he still hears complaints. He’s drafting a new measure that would create a state board to hear complaints and punish local officials who ignore laws on property assessments and appeals.

"People are going to complain just because they lost their appeal," Rogers said. "But if you have blatant violations of the law, [violators] don’t need to be in that system anymore."

Metro-Atlanta counties where you can still appeal your property value and the deadline to do so:
Cobb: July 2

DeKalb: July 14

Douglas: Aug. 13

In other counties the deadline has passed.

Appealing to the appraisersThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently asked three private appraisers, a county chief appraiser and a county board of equalization member to share some tips on how to improve your chances of winning a property tax appeal. Here’s what they had to say.

Show up — with a smile.

Bring evidence, including photos and other illustrations, but keep it simple. 

Ask yourself: Is it worth it? Calculate how much less in taxes you would pay by winning the reduction you seek.

If you have a pricey home or think you’re due a major reduction in value, consider hiring a professional

Want more information? You can find it through the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation at or the state of Georgia at

This article can be found at:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Other Sites with Information

Georgia Dept of Revenue and

Tax Appeal Atlanta - (Note: A commercial site with Tax info)

Fair Assessments - (Note: A commercial site with Tax info)

Georgia Property Tax Information -
(Note: A commercial site with Tax info)

Cobb County Tax Commissioner and


Want to contact this Tax Office via email? Here are their addresses FYI:

(Drop them a line and tell them what you think of their office)


Although this blog site is under construction you might want to look at some others that I have put up over the years:

Our local Atlanta newspaper and how it is littering the Metro area

A 3rd rate utility billing firm from Chicago with accounts all over the USA

A Georgia Pawn Shop that got run out of town

A retail chain that sued me for 23 months for posting their AP Directives

A good local restaurant in Kennesaw, Ga

Our county library which needs a good kick in the ass

A friend got screwed by this insurance firm, he came out OK in the end

A restaurant chain with its head up its ass

Target Stores 2006 Security Manual

An Az case where Target got sued

A President out of control

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