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Decatur School Board Plans to conduct survey, hold town hall on senior tax exemption

COVID-19 Decatur

Decatur School Board Plans to conduct survey, hold town hall on senior tax exemption

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City Schools of Decatur Administrative Offices. Photo by Dena Mellick


By Sara Amis, contributor 

Decatur, GA — The City Schools of Decatur Board of Education and the Senior Homestead Exemption Committee met in a joint work session on Sept.  22.

Discussion revolved around further development of the plan that the committee presented at the CSD Board meeting on Sept. 8, and how to invite public input.

The committee recommended two separate exemptions. One will be for seniors 65-69, based on federal adjusted median income, with an exemption value adjusted to reflect home values. The total amount of that exemption will be capped at $1.1 million. Seniors 70+ will also receive an income-based exemption while the rest of the budgeted amount, no more than $3.2 million, will be distributed to all seniors who are 70+ regardless of income.

Board members expressed concern that the normal options to inform the public such as in-person meetings are not available because of COVID-19.

“My parents aren’t even leaving the house,” said board member Tasha White.

Board member Healther Tell asked about the possibility of sending out a mailing in order to reach residents who are not online, while Maria Pinkelton suggested that existing organizations that work with seniors could disseminate information.

A survey will be conducted in order to gain information about public preferences. Information about the proposed exemption will be folded into the survey rather than presented in a separate document.

“Make sure people know the context of what you’re asking,” said committee member Gwin Hall.

Following the survey, there will be an open house style meeting conducted via Zoom that residents who do not have Zoom can dial into via phone.

The survey and open house meeting are planned for some time in the month of October, specific dates to be determined. Board chair Lewis Jones stated that the goal is to have a resolution ready to present to DeKalb legislators well before the beginning of the 2021 legislative session in January.

The current senior homestead tax exemption was passed in 2016, with a five-year sunset, with the stated goals of keeping seniors in the community and reducing new student enrollments. However, a study conducted by Georgia State University determined that the exemption did not achieve either of those goals.

The CSD board expected the exemption to cost the school district a $1.2 million incremental increase over the existing exemptions. In 2019 however, it cost the district an extra $3.5 million in reduced revenues, while in 2020 it cost an estimated $5.7 million.

To cover the gap, the CSD Board raised the millage rate from 18.66 to 20.25 and re-evaluated its operations.

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