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Georgia governor signs Decatur homestead exemptions legislation

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Georgia governor signs Decatur homestead exemptions legislation

Gov. Brian Kemp

Decatur, GA — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed bills on May 1 that updated the homestead tax exemptions for the city of Decatur and the City Schools of Decatur.

The homestead tax exemptions will be on the ballot in November as a referendum for voters to approve or reject.

The state Legislature passed a bill updating City Schools of Decatur’s senior homestead tax exemption on the last day of the session.

Decatur’s representatives delayed the bill as they asked the Decatur School Board to commit to addressing concerns about literacy and special education, according to records reviewed by Decaturish and interviews with people involved in the negotiations.

The homestead tax exemption provides tax breaks to seniors in Decatur, keeping them from being priced out of the city. More than 1,000 seniors currently use the tax exemption for school taxes, meaning their ability to stay in Decatur would’ve been jeopardized if the homestead exemption bill had not passed.

Senate Bill 288 updated the senior homestead tax exemption for City Schools of Decatur for an additional five-year period. No changes were made to the S-6 exemption, which provides a reduction of $200,000 of assessed home value ($400,000 appraised value) for homeowners age 70 and older without an income cap.

For the S-5 exemption, the dollar amount of the household adjusted income for seniors ages 65-69 increased from $53,000 to $62,000. The legislation maintained the exemption of $200,000 of assessed home value ($400,000 appraised value).

Kemp signed SB 287 as well, which redistricts the school 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 by amending the city’s charter. The commission approved the new election districts in a November 2022 meeting and the change went into effect on Jan. 1. For the school board, the state Legislature has to approve the reapportionment. District 2 now extends to cover more of downtown Decatur.

Redistricting is needed if the difference from the ideal district population is greater than 10%. Decatur’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],” City Manager Andrea 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.”

The governor also signed House Bills 632, 633, 634, and 635 which update the homestead exemptions and create a new exemption for the city of Decatur. The city increased parts of the general homestead exemptions and created an exemption for owner-occupied homes on land managed through the Decatur Land Trust.

“The City Commission has expressed interest in property tax relief for persons who own their homes and are impacted by increasing property values,” Arnold previously wrote in a memo. “Additionally, there is a desire to ensure that resident property owners on Decatur Land Trust properties are afforded a homestead exemption similar to the City’s general homestead exemption.”

Here’s what the legislation changed:

– Increase the General Homestead Exemption (GH-1) for all residential owner-occupied properties from $25,000 to $40,000.

– Increase the General Homestead Exemption (GH-2) for residential owner-occupied properties for persons 65 years of age or older from $10,000 to $15,000.

– Increase the General Homestead Exemption (GH-3) for residential owner-occupied properties for persons 62 years of age or older whose Georgia net taxable household income does not exceed $50,000 from $15,000 to $25,000 and adjust the household income limit from $50,000 to $60,000.

– Create a Community Land Trust Homestead Exemption (LT-1) in the amount of $40,000 for residents who hold owner-occupied real property that is subject to a written land lease having an initial term of not less than 99 years with a landlord that is an entity exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of the federal Internal Revenue Code, and who own all improvements located on the real property.

The annual cost of the proposed homestead exemptions is estimated to be approximately $1.05 million.

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