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ASK THE EXPERTS

The ‘real’ impact of the tax relief referendums

POSTED: October 26, 2008 5:03 a.m.

Candidates at last Tuesday’s Lumpkin County School Board Forum were asked how they would handle a $1 million budget shortfall caused by passage of the senior/disabled tax relief referendum on Nov. 4. Because the question assumed a budget shortfall that cannot be caused by homestead exemptions, they struggled with their answers.

  

The School Board and Lumpkin County taxpayers have several years of real numbers to gauge the affect of the 70+ Senior School Tax Homestead Exemption. These numbers are from the most recent year of tax payments gathered from the Lumpkin County Tax Commissioner’s office.

  

There are 16,521 taxable land parcels in Lumpkin County. Six hundred and sixty five of these parcels applied for the 70+ senior school tax homestead exemption.

  

That accounted for $545,000 in tax shift from the 665 qualified parcels to the remaining 15,856 non-qualified parcels. Do the math.  $545,000 divided by 15,856 non-qualified parcels equals $34.37 average tax shift per non-qualified parcel. That’s dinner for two at a good local restaurant. That total number has been digested already by the school board and taxpayers for several years. 

  

Lowering the age to 65 on the November ballot will add approximately 10 percent or $54,500 in new tax shifts. Do the math again. $54,500 divided by 15,856 non-qualified parcels equals $3.43 average tax shift per non-qualified parcel. Not even the cost of a cup of latte at Starbucks.   

  

The school board sets their budget and millage rate to bring in that budget. 

  

Homestead exemptions just determine how much tax each parcel of taxable land pays. To say that the school system will lose $1 million because of these or any other homestead exemptions is simply not correct. The same tax dollars are coming in. Who pays how much is what differs.

  

My desire to give tax relief for senior citizens started in 2000 when I first ran for State Representative. As I traveled around the counties, I met many seniors trying to live off a small Social Security check. They would tell me how they had either inherited the land or had purchased it right after World War II.

  

Now property taxes were forcing them to sell a portion so they could keep the remainder. One couple told me that their taxes in 2000 were more than they had received in payment for five acres in 1995. I do not believe in taxes that force people off their homesteads.

  

We are currently in hard economic times.  We see real estate and banking problems starting to affect us at the local level.

  

Additionally, our Mohawk Plant closed, putting over 360 people out of work.

  

When citizens are out of work, how can we expect them to continue paying high property taxes? If the taxes are not paid, the property gets sold on the local courthouse steps.

  

In Dawson County, local legislation that I passed will provide a Homestead Exemption from Dawson County school and county ad valorem property taxes in the amount of $150,000 of the appraised value (fair market value) for property owners who are permanently disabled or who are 65 years of age or older and whose income does not exceed $50,000, not including Social Security. 

  

In Lumpkin County, local legislation that I passed will provide a Homestead Exemption from Lumpkin County school ad valorem property taxes in the amount of $300,000 of the appraised value (fair market value) for property owners who are permanently disabled or who are 65 years of age or older.

  

It will also provide an exemption from city and county ad valorem property taxes up to $150,000 of appraised value (fair market value). The lower threshold for city and county taxes recognizes the fact that older taxpayers continue to benefit from city and county services even though they probably don’t have children in school any longer.

  

This is just the start. In two years, I hope to have ad valorem tax reform legislation that will give every homeowner relief. In the mean time, we will gather data on how well these senior tax relief packages are working.

  

I have faith in our voters. When given the right information and an opportunity to vote on how they want to be taxed, our voters usually make good decisions. My job is to provide you the right information and an opportunity to vote on Nov. 4.

  

Your job is to decide how to vote.

  

Amos Amerson can be reached at 689 N. Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, GA 30533, (706) 864-6589, e-mail  hamerson@alltel.net.  Or contact Gerald Lewy, my communications director, at (706) 344-7788. He’ll know how to get your message to me. 

 

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