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School Board approves new Decatur senior tax break for upcoming Legislative session

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School Board approves new Decatur senior tax break for upcoming Legislative session

FILE PHOTO USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES: The City Schools of Decatur Board of Education. Top row, left to right: former Superintendent David Dude and School Board Chair Lewis Jones. Bottom row, left to right: School board members James Herndon, Tasha White (Vice Chair), Heather Tell and Jana Johnson-Davis. Image obtained via City Schools of Decatur

This story has been updated.

By Sara Amis, contributor 

Decatur, GA — A final version of the new senior homestead tax exemption was approved by the City Schools of Decatur Board of Education at its Dec. 8 meeting.

It is intended to replace an existing unlimited exemption for all seniors 65 and older that went into effect in 2016 and will sunset in 2021.

That exemption was expected to cost the school district an additional $1.2 million per year over existing exemptions; however, it cost an extra $3.5 million in reduced revenues in 2019, and an estimated $5.7 million in 2020.

To make up the shortfall, the district raised the millage rate from 18.66 to 20.25 and reduced some services.

In addition, the School Board had hoped that the exemption would slow enrollment increases by encouraging seniors to stay in Decatur rather than selling their homes. A subsequent study conducted by Georgia State University indicated that the exemption did not have that effect.

The CSD Board formed a committee which held its first meeting in April of 2020.  The committee’s charge was to come up with an alternative that would stay within the original budget of $1.2 million over existing exemptions so that it will cost the district in aggregate no more than $4.3 million.

In order to preserve as much tax relief as possible for economically vulnerable seniors, the committee suggested creating two separate exemptions with different requirements based on age.

The new version provides an exemption on $200,000 of assessed home value ($400,000 of appraised value) for seniors aged 65-69 if their income is at or below 80% of the adjusted median income for the Atlanta area. That income figure is $52,980 for a two-person household. Seniors aged 70 and above will also receive the same exemption on $200,000 of assessed home value ($400,000 of appraised value), but without an income cap.

The final version of the exemption will be presented to the DeKalb legislative delegation.  It must be passed by the Georgia legislature and approved by voters in November 2021 before going into effect in 2022.

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