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Tax breaks for seniors, Callaway Building on Decatur Commission agenda


Tax breaks for seniors, Callaway Building on Decatur Commission agenda

Decatur City Hall.
Decatur City Hall

Decatur City Hall

The Decatur City Commission meets on Sept. 21 and will consider granting a waiver of certain fees for seniors age 70 and over.

In addition, the chairman of the School Board plans to speak to commissioners about expanding homestead tax exemptions for seniors 65 and older. Commissioners will also take another look at plans for the Callaway Building after postponing approval of some variances requested by the developer.

According to the Sept. 21 agenda, commissioners will consider exempting seniors from sanitation fees and storm water utility fees.

“Currently the solid waste fee is $240 per unit and the storm water fee is $75 per unit,” the memo attached to the City Commission agenda says. “If the City Commission wanted to provide a $315 credit for payment of both fees to resident homeowners who qualified for the 70 years of age and older homestead exemption, the total cost would be approximately $170,000. If the waiver was continued for the first installment payment due June 1, 2016 there would be another $170,000 cost, for a total cost of $340,000 for the current fiscal year. If continued in future fiscal years there would only be one payment to the Enterprise Funds.  It is estimated that the annual cost to the General Fund in five years would be approximately $230,000 based on the number of potential future exemptions and possible fee increases.”

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City Staff is recommending granting the waiver, for the following reasons:

– Data already exists to define the number of households that would be eligible based on the age 70 homestead exemption.

– Persons who qualify have already provided documentation to the City so no additional information would be needed to apply a fee waiver, therefore no additional application would be required from residents.

– Fees are set by the City Commission, so the waiver could be implemented with the second installment billing in October, 2015.

– Combined with the millage rate reductions already approved by the City Commission and Board of Education, homeowners whose property values increased $40,000 or less should see no increase in the 2015 tax billing over the total billed in 2014.

– The fee waiver would address the primary homeowner group targeted for tax relief.  To the extent these taxpayers remain in their homes, this waiver would benefit the overall community by providing neighborhood stability that supports the City’s lifelong community goal.

Decatur had sought to expand homestead exemptions for seniors, but that plan died in this year’s legislative session. School Board Chairman Garrett Goebel is planning to speak to commissioners about the board’s desire to expand homestead exemptions for school taxes.

Currently, residents age 80 and older do not have to pay the school tax.  The school board would like to see the age lowered to 65. The talk about tax rates comes as Decatur voters are being asked to consider allowing the school system to borrow $75 million for construction projects. That could result in taxes going up as much as 8 percent to pay off the debt. Decaturish recently conducted an informal poll that showed respondents were divided on the subject of whether to approve the bond.

In other matters, commissioners will reconsider Cousins Properties plans for developing the Callaway Building at 120 West Trinity Place. Last month, commissioners balked at approving variances for the project, citing too much residential and not enough commercial spaces in the plans. City Commission candidate John Ridley has called for ending that contract and using the property for the city’s schools, but commissioners have shown no indication that they’re reconsidering a commercial use for the Callaway Building.

The city has an agreement with Cousins Properties to redevelop the 5.25 acre site. The city purchased the property from DeKalb County using $5.12 million borrowed by issuing bonds. Plans for the building go back to at least 2011.

The City Commission meeting begins with a work session at 6 p.m. and the regular meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. The meetings are held at City Hall, located at 509 North McDonough Street. All meetings are open to the public.