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Hall voters must mull 2 tax questions
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Jackson ballot asks for vote on exemption

 

Hall County voters will be busy this year.

In addition to choosing their favorite candidates and voting on amendments to the state constitution, they also will be asked to answer two additional questions for Hall County.

Both questions are about taxes, with one concerning school tax exemption for senior citizens and the other asking Hall residents if they would like the option of paying their taxes twice a year.

Deputy Chief Appraiser Don Elrod of the Hall County Tax Assessors Office said if approved, the school tax ballot question would make school tax exemptions easier for some taxpayers to acquire.

As it stands now, even if taxpayers are eligible for partial exemptions in their 60s, they have to reapply for full exemptions in their 70s.

But if residents vote yes, those taxpayers automatically would become eligible once they hit 70.

"If they qualify at 62, then they would automatically be qualified at 70," said Assistant County Administrator Phil Sutton.

Elrod said there are a few different exemptions people can apply for once they reach a certain age.

"Currently at age 62, you can apply for a partial school tax exemption. There are income requirements you have to meet, and those vary every year. At age 65 you can apply for a senior citizens exemption, and again there’s income qualifiers. Currently in Hall County, if you’re 72 years old, you can get totally exempt from school taxes, no income qualifiers at all," Elrod said.

The partial school tax exemption takes $30,000 off the assessed property value for the school portion of property taxes.

The second ballot question is what is known as a nonbinding referendum, meaning the county is using the ballot
question as a poll to gauge public interest.

Hall County is one of few in the state that has the ability to ask voters nonbinding referendum questions, and the only county that has the authority to ask voters unlimited nonbinding referendums.

"It’s quite unique," Sutton said. "Sometimes the commission would like to take a poll and it’s certainly one of the most accurate and broad polls you could ever take. ... It’s a great way to get public opinion."

The nonbinding referendum on this year’s ballot came about after a Hall County resident presented the board with a request to collect taxes twice a year.

At the June 26 board meeting, longtime Hall County resident Louie Butterworth brought a copy of the law stating taxes are to be collected twice yearly before the commission, spurring county officials to dig into the old legislation.

But three seemingly conflicting pieces of legislation dating back to the 1970s left county officials puzzled over what is actually the law.

In 1974, residents voted on a constitutional amendment that would authorize Hall County to divide taxes into two annual payments. In the same year, the Georgia legislature passed a statewide act that granted counties the ability to collect taxes either once or twice a year. In 1975, the same legislature passed a local act directing Hall County to collect taxes twice a year, County Attorney Bill Blalock said.

Commissioners proposed adding a nonbinding referendum question on the ballot to determine interest in collecting taxes biannually.

Hall County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom Oliver said he does not favor the idea of collecting taxes twice.

"I just don’t like that one because ... why do you want to pay your taxes twice a year if you don’t have to?" Oliver said.

Douglas Aiken of the Hall County Tax Payer Association said he thinks most people will agree with Oliver and vote to continue collecting taxes once a year.

"A lot of folks are reluctant to do that," Aiken said. "The reason being is that they can keep their money in the bank and draw interest on it until Dec. 1 rather than paying it early."

He said he and others he’s talked to will likely vote for the school tax exemption.

"Any time you reduce taxes I’m for it," Aiken said.

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