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County homestead tax exemption question confuses voters

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County homestead tax exemption question confuses voters

DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.
DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

The question appears at the end of the Nov. 8 ballot.

It’s a dense block of text with a meaning that isn’t immediately clear.

DeKalb County
Homestead Exemption
Act 264, House Bill 596

“Shall the Act be approved which amends the homestead exemption from DeKalb County ad valorem taxes for county purposes in an amount equal to the amount by which the current year assessed value of a homestead exceeds the base year assessed value of such homestead by extending the time limitation on such exemption?”

The question has local voters asking what the question actually means and what the implications of voting “yes” or “no” are.”

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The short answer, according to DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader, is voters who want to extend the Homestead Property Tax Assessment Freeze until 2022 should vote “yes” to approve the legislation. Otherwise, he said, the exemption will expire in 2016.

If it expires, many in the county will see their taxes go up.

The more complicated answer has to do with two co-dependent pieces of legislation. One would’ve approved a special purpose local options sales tax for road improvements. The other would’ve approved a sales tax to fund a property tax break for homeowners. A typo in the legislation stated that approving these measures would’ve ended the homestead assessment freeze. The DeKalb County Commission decided not to pursue the sales taxes so the wording could be fixed in the next Legislative session.

“The DeKalb Delegation passed local legislation to call a referendum this November to extend the existing Homestead Property Tax Assessment Freeze (applicable only to County taxes) until 2022,” Rader said. “However, the legislation went further to stipulate that, if the voters approved separate referenda to dedicate the Homestead Option Sales Tax (HOST) exclusively to tax relief (eliminating the current 20 percent available for capital improvements) AND to approve a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) for capital projects (to replace the 20 percent HOST allocation to capital), THEN the Assessment Freeze would be TOLLED (suspended) while those taxes were in effect.”

The whole situation is about as clear as mud, but the bottom line is this: If you want to extend the assessment freeze and avoid higher taxes, you should vote “yes,” Rader said.

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