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September 13, 2007

TAX RELIEF IS HOT TOPIC AT COMMISSIONERS MEETING

The room was full as the BOC opened its meeting Monday morning-September 10, 2007. The Senior Citizens Center patrons were in attendance as well as several other senior citizens, mostly from District 3.

Comm. Bernard prepared a “white paper” and had it passed around to everyone in attendance. It was an article that he composed and has sent to various people throughout the county via email over the last month. In this paper Comm. Bernard advocates No School Taxes for Seniors (those over 62), regardless of income. Comm. Bernard has made many statements in past meetings about the increase in tax assessments for people in the Northern part of the County, and especially in his District around the lake.

It is true that people in their late 60’s most likely don’t have children in the public school system. It is true that over 50% of our property taxes are paid to the Public School System (almost 60% of the property tax bill).

What also is true is that there are many people paying school taxes that have never had children in the public schools in Jasper County, either because they don’t have children or because they prefer to send their child/children to private school.

At Monday’s meeting there were emotional comments such as “Give Seniors tax relief so they can live their lives here.” It was mentioned several times that all Seniors are on a fixed income. Who isn’t on a fixed income? How many people have opportunities to adjust their income? Very few. Even for those that still work, it is doubtful their employer will give them an immediate raise just because their property tax bill went up. It was never suggested at the meeting that the tax break be given to those with low incomes, but only to those that reach the age of 62 regardless of income.

This proposal needs to be looked at realistically. The School System needs a certain amount of money to operate. Most people will agree that budget cuts are rarely seen at the School Board and the tax increases are usually in the double digits; however, the School Board must have money to operate, and they will tax us to get it.

At present the School Board receives property taxes in the amount of approximately $7 million a year. If the number of people that are paying school tax now decreases by 30%, that means that the people left to pay the School tax will see their taxes increase significantly to make up the difference—in fact your bill would go up 50% from what you pay now if you’re not over 62. Taxes will not decrease! The “tax savings” will be reallocated to other citizens to pay.

There are several different property tax exemptions available to property owners now. There is homestead, breaks for low income “elderly”—meaning either 62 or 65 years of age, and other exemptions. If you want to find out if you qualify, call the Tax Assessors office at 706-468-4904 or go by and get the forms and talk to someone in that office.

After a rousing “campaign speech” to the audience Monday morning, Comm. Bernard made a motion to send a resolution to the State Legislature to approve home rule legislation that would allow a Referendum on the ballot to exempt all citizens over 62 from School taxes. Citizens would then vote on this issue. This resolution was passed 3-2 with Comm. Hill and Comm. Pennamon voting no.

Something else to consider for those that pay school taxes and feel they are getting no benefit from the tax they pay—call your school board representative and ask them to fund the library and not cut the funding for the library. Many “seniors” use the library and this would be one way they could see their “school taxes” at work.

School Board Members are:
Bobby Norris, Phyllis Norwood, Joel Gaston, Joy Wild, and Paul Kelly.
Board of Education
706-468-6350 or 706-468-4953
fax: 706-468-0045
jbrinson@ jasper.k12.ga.us

To comment on this article or to let your feelings be known email us at taxpayerwatchdogs@yahoo.com or visit our website. You can also Speak Out on the
message board set up to do just that: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/speakoutjasper/


TWG
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