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Decatur officials urge state House to pass school tax break legislation

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Decatur officials urge state House to pass school tax break legislation

Georgia State Capitol. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — City Schools of Decatur is working to get its senior homestead tax exemption over the finish line in the state legislature. Decatur officials are urging the House to pass the bills.

The school district also has a reapportionment bill going through the state House. Both bills have passed the state Senate and need to pass the House before heading to the governor. Once the bills are passed, the homestead exemption would be on the ballot in November as a referendum.

“I’ve not heard any objections to the senior homestead exemption. We think a five-year passage is incredibly important for our seniors and their ability to plan, and I hope that they [pass] it,” School Board James Herndon said. “The senior homestead exemption, particularly a long [term] version of it, allows seniors to make plans to age in place for the benefits of Decatur and our schools.”

Neither bill has been put on the local calendar for a vote yet. The last day of the session is on Wednesday, March 29. Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett said there is “tremendous support” among residents for the exemptions.

“As you know, without the opportunity to vote on the senior tax exemptions on the November ballot, the current school senior tax exemptions will end at the end of 2023,” Garrett said. “We support these carefully crafted exemptions based on the school’s data studies and are hopeful that the exemptions will make it through the legislative process.”

The school board did not make any changes to the S-6 exemption. For this 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.

There is also an S-5 exemption, which 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 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.

If the homestead exemption bill does not pass the legislature, the S-5 and S-6 exemptions will expire at the end of the year and would no longer be available to seniors. There are several other homestead exemptions that apply to city and school taxes, and those would still be available.

Last fall, the school board and the city commission had to redistrict their election districts. Decatur has two election districts that are the same for the school board and the city commission. The school board election districts have to be approved by the General Assembly.

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.

“The redistricting bill is needed in order to meet the requirements for population distribution in the two voting districts per the most recent census data and to match the districts approved by the city commission,” Garrett said.

As of March 24, a local calendar has not been posted on the General Assembly’s website to be considered on Monday, March 27.

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