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Walker County property values increasing

The hot housing market is impacting property values nationwide, including Walker County. Recently mailed assessment notices show a substantial increase in value for many property owners.

“Numerous people are moving into the area from California, New Jersey and Texas,” according to Terry Gilreath, chief appraiser. “People are paying more than the asking price, and what that does is it affects every other taxpayer.”

The Greater Chattanooga Realtors organization tracks sales in Walker, Catoosa and Dade counties in northwest Georgia, along with Hamilton and Sequatchie counties in southeast Tennessee. Their data shows the median sales price in this region increased 17.6%, or $39,000, in May to $260,000.

Gilreath called the new assessments the product of an “inflationary increase evaluation.” Appraisers made adjustments to the residential property base value this year, going from $52 to $78 per square foot in order to comply with state law appraisal ratios.

“All of these values are from the sales. That’s where we get our information from is the sales,” explained Gilreath.

Even with the adjustments, the Walker County Assessors office is still seeing property sell for $30,000 to $50,000 above the appraised value.

“Our office is built for 1,500 deeds to be processed each year,” said Gilreath. “This past year, (we had) 4,000. There’s that many transactions that are going on in Walker County. People want to be here.”

While property values may be higher, Gilreath added that doesn’t necessarily mean property owners will pay more in taxes. The millage rate set by governing authorities, such as the Walker County Board of Commissioners and Walker County Board of Education, will determine how much will be owed in taxes. Those rates will be set later this summer.

Gilreath advised, “If you have any questions about the notices, call the assessor’s office, and we’ll be happy to explain it.”

Public schools in Walker County reopen Aug. 11 with traditional five-day, in-person classes

Walker County schools will reopen for in-person learning this fall with $20 million in COVID relief federal funds.

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan signed in March by President Joe Biden includes $122 billion in economic assistance to help public schools shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic reopen safely.

The Walker County School System will receive approximately $19 million in funds while the Chickamauga City School District is receiving $1,080,891, according to school officials.

“Our summer cleaning protocols will be utilized to ensure the safest environment for students and employees upon their return to school/work,” Walker County Schools Superintendent Damon Raines said. “We will continue with COVID protocols that mirror guidance from CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and DPH (Georgia Department of Public Health) as school resumes.”

Five-day, in-person classes will resume Wednesday, Aug. 11, for both school systems.

Once schools reopen, the systems will continue to follow guidance from the CDC and DPH.

“The typical maintenance and operations activities are being performed in addition to a thorough deep-cleaning and sanitization before school starts,” Chickamauga City Schools Superintendent Melody Day said. “There are also facility projects occurring at each school.”

Walker and Chickamauga schools will not have a mask requirement but will supply masks for students who want them, the superintendents said. Students will not be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 at this point, and masks are optional for Chickamauga students participating in sports and other school activities.

“Athletics are governed by the Georgia High School Association, and we will comply with their guidance, as well,” Raines said.

For Walker system students with documented medical issues, virtual or digital options will be handled on a case-by-case basis, Raines said.

“There will not be a full-time, virtual option provided by the (Chickamauga) system” for students with documented medical issues, Day said.

Walker stats

The Walker school system saw 800 cases of the virus during the 2020-21 academic year, with 516 students (including any virtual students) and 284 teachers affected, Raines said. The total number who quarantined was 5,298.

According to reported data, the Walker system noted seven active cases Aug. 21, 2020, and 15 active cases and 86 quarantine cases May 28, 2021, the Walker school chief said.

Students missed an average of 8.27 days due to quarantine last year, he said.

In the fall semester, 26% of students learned virtually. By the spring semester that number had fallen to fewer than 10%, he said.

While the number of cases of the virus is declining, the school system will monitor the situation.

“We will continue to follow the guidance from CDC and DPH and will post cases/quarantines if that information is tracked in the fall,” he said. “We will maintain our current COVID page (on the school system’s website) as well.”

Walker County Schools’ COVID information is available at

Chickamauga stats

The Chickamauga school system saw 104 cases of the virus during the 2020-21 academic year, of which there were 75 student, 19 teacher and 10 staff cases, Day reported. The total number quarantined throughout the school year was 299.

“At the beginning of the 20-21 school year 12% of the students chose to attend school virtually,” she said. “At the end of the school year, only 2% were attending via virtual instruction.”

Chickamauga officials are also monitoring the situation; consequently, the school system’s Back to School Plan is subject to change if current information from the CDC, DPH or Georgia Department of Education changes, Day explained.

Chickamauga City Schools’ Back to School Plan is posted at

Walker County building ordinance for tiny houses

Walker County officials are starting to hammer out details on regulations for tiny houses.

Walker County Planning Commission Chairman Michael Haney shared the commission’s tiny house ordinance recommendations with the Walker County Board of Commissioners during the commission’s June 24 meeting.

“I’d like to see us move forward and start the process,” Commissioner Mark Askew said. The board unanimously approved his motion to authorize County Attorney David Gottlieb to prepare a draft ordinance amendment.

Some of the things the board wants to build into the ordinance for tiny houses, which are defined as residential structures with fewer than 500 square feet, are:

♦ Construction would be permitted only as a conditional use variance.

♦ Construction must meet all minimum electrical, energy and other building codes adopted by Walker County.

♦ Construction must be on a permanent foundation.

Once Gottlieb prepares the draft ordinance amendment, the amendment will go to the planning commission before going to the Board of Commissioners. The process will follow the legal advertising and public hearing requirements.

Walker tax commissioner switches to percentage-based credit card fee

The service fee charged on all credit card transactions processed by the Walker County Tax Commissioner’s office will be updated soon. The fee will transition from a flat rate of $2 per transaction to a 3% charge, effective Aug. 1.

The change is being made to provide residents and business owners more payment options. In addition to Visa and Mastercard, the tax commissioner will be able to accept Discover, American Express and Apple Pay.

Since the credit card service fee will be percentage based, a single motor vehicle tag renewal will actually cost less. However, if paying with a credit card on a large transaction, the final price will be impacted.

Customers can avoid the credit card service fee by paying with cash or check.

The Walker County Tax Commissioner maintains two locations to assist customers: 122 Highway 95, Rock Spring, and 2012 McFarland Gap Road, Rossville.