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(UPDATE) Gov. Kemp signs Decatur Schools senior tax cut bill, annexation bill

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(UPDATE) Gov. Kemp signs Decatur Schools senior tax cut bill, annexation bill

Brian Kemp. Photo obtained via http://sos.ga.gov/

Decatur, GA — Gov. Brian Kemp has signed a bill giving tax cuts to seniors living in Decatur.

It will now be up to the city’s voters to approve the tax cuts during the city’s elections in November. He also signed another bill related to school annexations in DeKalb County, according to state Sen. Elena Parent.

The tax cuts would apply to City Schools of Decatur taxes. The governor signed Senate Bill 292 on May 3 though that action wasn’t reflected on the state’s website until this week. The governor’s office didn’t return numerous messages seeking updates on the status of the senior tax cut bill.

Senate Bill 292 replaces an earlier and more expensive version of those cuts, known as a Senior Homestead Tax Exemption. That was an unlimited homestead tax 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.

CSD initially asked for a 5-year extension. The Legislature reduced that to two years.

“SB 292 provides tax relief for Decatur seniors by providing an exemption on $200,000 of assessed home value ($400,000 of appraised value) for seniors aged 65-69, if their combined household income does not exceed $53,000 (80 percent of the median income for the Atlanta area),” a press release from CSD said. ‘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 other bill the governor signed, Senate Bill 293, resolves disputes over school district boundaries when annexations occur. In 2019, Gov. Brian Kemp vetoed similar legislation, Senate Bill 53, following a last minute push by City Schools of Decatur to reject the legislation. That bill would’ve made school annexations separate from municipal ones, meaning they would need to be approved in a separate referendum. CSD paid a lobbyist $10,000 to encourage the governor to veto it, saying they were unaware the bill existed until it passed the Senate. That move by CSD ticked off the city’s legislative delegation.

Writer Sara Amis contributed to this story. 

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