Coweta residents who have led the push for increased senior citizen property tax exemptions are watching the Georgia General Assembly particularly closely this year.
After months of public input and analysis, the Coweta County Board of Education voted 6-1 in October to move ahead with a proposal to update the exemption schedule adopted in 2002, potentially providing $1.8 million in tax relief to Coweta seniors ages 65 and older.
As required by law, the proposal moved on to the Coweta County Board of Commissioners, which unanimously voted to execute a resolution asking the legislators who represent Coweta County to introduce “local legislation” that ultimately would allow Coweta voters to decide the matter.
But the lack of a unanimous vote at the school board level, where District 4 representative Linda Menk cast the sole “no” vote, is a cause for concern in a process that traditionally has required full solidarity from governing bodies requesting action on the state level. At the time she voted, Menk claimed the exemption wasn’t “aggressive” enough. A small group of Menk’s constituents have been speaking directly with legislators about an alternate plan.
Here’s a brief timeline of the Coweta County Board of Education’s senior tax analysis and vote:
Feb. 13, 2018: Jeff Binion initially addresses the board, asking them to consider updating the existing senior tax exemption schedule. The current schedule was adopted in 2002 and implemented in 2003.
May 8, 2018: Binion again speaks in favor of a schedule adjustment to allow for inflation, urging the school board to act quickly ahead of the county-wide revaluation schedule to go into effect in 2020.
May 2018: The school board holds a series of called meetings – state-mandated public budget workshops – which include discussion of the 2019 fiscal year budget as well as a senior tax exemption analysis.
The analysis includes three exemption schedule adjustment scenarios prepared by the Coweta County Tax Assessors Office. Superintendent Steve Barker asks board members to look at the potential impact of exemption increases as they go through the budget, to see where adjustments can be made to absorb the financial impact on the school budget.
Board members are asked to consider several key points of the analysis, which include:
• Approximately 28,375 Coweta County properties receive some type of homestead exemption
• Approximately 30 percent of those properties are eligible for the senior tax exemption
• Of those eligible for the senior tax exemption, 3,300 currently are fully exempt from school property tax
Menk is not present at the workshops.
June 10, 2018: Binion and Robert Eaton address the board on the tax exemption issue. Information and proposals from Binion, Eaton, and Donald Smith are submitted for consideration and discussion by the board and the superintendent.
September 2018: The Coweta County School System’s website hosts a senior tax exemption page for public consideration and comment. Original proposals and research by Binion, Eaton and Smith are included, along with contact information for each. Information and scenarios provided by the Coweta County Tax Assessors Office also are included. Public input is accepted through Oct. 3.
Oct. 9, 2018: Dean Jackson, the school system’s public information officer, presents the results of the public survey to board members at their monthly meeting. The board votes 6-1, with Menk opposing, to approve a recommendation to raise senior exemption values, using one of the original scenarios prepared by the tax assessor’s office in May.