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Decatur School Board meets legislative delegation to discuss homestead tax exemption, redistricting

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Decatur School Board meets legislative delegation to discuss homestead tax exemption, redistricting

Georgia State Capitol. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur School Board met with the DeKalb legislative delegation on Monday, Feb. 27, to discuss the district’s senior homestead tax exemption and redistricting.

The school board has been working with the legislative delegation to introduce and pass its senior homestead tax exemption and redistricting legislation. Neither bill has been introduced in the General Assembly yet.

Superintendent Maggie Fehrman said the board met with the delegation to see if they had any questions about the senior homestead tax exemption and reapportionment bills. Board Chair James Herndon added that he spoke briefly about the difference between the proposed exemptions.

The school board approved the senior homestead tax exemption during a regular meeting on Dec. 13, 2022.

The current exemption expires in December 2023. The exemption for CSD will have to be approved by the Georgia General Assembly, and if approved it will be on the ballot in November 2023 as a referendum.

The current exemptions for school taxes are:

– S-6 exemption: homeowners age 70 and above are eligible for a reduction of $200,000 of assessed home value ($400,000 appraised value) without an income cap.

– S-5 exemption: provides an exemption of $200,000 of assessed home value ($400,000 appraised value) for seniors aged 65-69 with a household federal adjusted gross income less than $53,000.

The school board did not make any changes to the S-6 exemption. The board increased the dollar amount of the household adjusted income for seniors ages 65-69 from $53,000 to $62,000 for the S-5 exemption. The board maintained the exemption of $200,000 of assessed home value ($400,000 appraised value).

The school board is aiming to extend the senior homestead tax exemption for an additional five-year period.

“To be clear, everyone that currently qualifies will qualify under the new exemption. Additional seniors will qualify under this exemption because we are increasing the amount that we allow for income,” school board member Hans Utz said. “Nobody that currently qualifies will be taken off. There will be some people that get added because we are accepting a higher income level.”

The school board also approved a resolution in November 2022 requesting the General Assembly reapportion the board’s election districts. Decatur has two election districts that are the same for the school board and the city commission.

For the city commission, redistricting is done through amending the city’s charter. The commission approved the new election districts at its Nov. 21, 2022, meeting and the change went into effect on Jan. 1. District 2 now extends to cover more of downtown Decatur.

There was enough of a difference in the population of the city commission and Decatur School Board districts to require redistricting. The voting districts must meet the one person-one vote requirement, City Manager Andrea Arnold previously said.

“The concept is that districts within a political entity not be so disproportionately populated as to diminish the voting strength of any of the citizens, i.e. the voting strength of citizens in one district should not be greater than the voting strength of citizens in another district just because there are fewer people in one district enjoying the same amount of representation compared to a more populated district,” Arnold wrote in a memo.

If the population deviation from the ideal district population is over 10%, redistricting is needed. The city’s ideal district population is 12,464 and the total deviation was 11.41%, based on the 2020 Census.

The new districts have a total deviation of 0.16%, or a difference of 20 people.

“With the proposal with extending District 2 east along the existing boundaries of East Ponce de Leon [Avenue] and East Howard [Avenue], starting at North McDonough [Street] going over to North Candler [Street],” Arnold previously said. “Essentially, we’re moving 701 people from District 1 into District 2. The District 1 population would end up at 12,474 and the District 2 would end up at 12,454. I’m not sure we can get a whole lot closer…to the ideal district population.”

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