Georgia Public Broadcasting / Coastal development stands along the Tybee Island beachfront in Chatham County, Georgia. Such development could be threatened by sea level rise by mid-century.

GA - As sea levels rise, Coastal Georgia’s property tax base could sink, new analysis says

As sea levels rise across coastal Georgia, property tax bases will begin to fall -- and as a result, essential municipal services will suffer.

That's the not-so-distant future foreseen by the scientific nonprofit Climate Central, which on Thursday released "Sinking Tax Base," an analysis of how much of the nation's taxable land lies vulnerable to rising waters.

Their answer? About 6,800 square miles in the U.S. -- an area roughly 50 times the size of the city of Atlanta -- may shift at least partially beneath tidal boundary levels by 2050.

In Georgia, that figure stands at about 100 square miles -- roughly the size of Savannah.

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"The issue of private land jeopardized by sea-level rise -- and particularly the consequences for municipal tax revenues, spending on schools, roads -- is ... not something that's been well researched and well reported," said John Upton, who leads media outreach for Climate Central.


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To be clear, the group's analysis does not put a dollar amount on property tax revenue likely to be lost; rather, it calculates the current assessed value of property that is likely to be affected by sea-level rise by mid-century.

In Coastal Georgia's most populated county of Chatham, that comes out to about $2 billion: $800 million in land value (7.5% of the overall land tax base) and $1.2 billion in building value (4.7% of the overall building tax base).

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"What's going to happen to the tax base for a lot of [coastal] communities -- and clearly what the data suggests -- is that it's being washed away," said Mark Rupp, who directs Georgetown University's climate change adaptation program.

But this doesn't mean that coastal communities are helpless in the face of sea-level rise, Rupp said.

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