During this election, Jackson County officials are asking voters to consider giving a property tax break to those individuals who are at least 65 years old.
The measure isn’t an anomaly. Several other surrounding counties, including Dawson, Hall, Lumpkin and White, also are asking voters to consider approving similar exemptions.
Although the amount of the tax break in the form of a homestead exemption differs from county to county, the intent is the same — to save elderly residents a little cash.
Because property taxes are used to fund both schools and county governments, the amount of the tax break that is presented to voters is established collectively by the county commission, school board and tax commissioner.
In Jackson County, voters are being asked to amend the current $20,000 homestead exemption from county school district ad valorem taxes for educational purposes. Voters are being asked to raise the existing exemption to $40,000 for residents who are at least 65 years old and whose income doesn’t exceed $18,000 annually.
"We wanted to (increase the exemption) in 2007, but the schools said they couldn’t afford it," said Don Elrod, the Jackson County tax commissioner. "But after showing (officials) a report that showed how much tax bills increased because of the re-evaluation of property values, we said we had to do something to give relief to our seniors."
Lumpkin County voters are being asked to consider the highest homestead exemptions within area counties. Voters there are being asked to consider approving a $60,000 and $120,000 homestead exemption for ad valorem taxes that are to be used for county and educational purposes respectively.
The lowest exemption on the ballot in surrounding counties is White County’s $15,000 homestead exemption.
With the increased exemption rate, seniors in Jackson County could save between $264 and $378 in property taxes, depending on the millage rate in their area.
Every year, Georgia residents receive a tax bill for the assessed value of their property. In Georgia, assessed value is 40 percent of the property’s market value. For instance, on a $100,000 property, the assessed value would be $40,000.
The property’s assessed value is then multiplied by the area’s millage rate to determine how much property tax an individual owes. One "mill" is equal to $1 per $1,000 of assessed value.
For instance, a Georgia homeowner whose home has an assessed value of $100,000 and who lives in a city with a 16 mill tax rate could owe $640 in taxes.
If the homestead exemptions are approved in Dawson, Hall, Jackson and Lumpkin counties, about 10 percent of each of the counties’ populations may receive the homestead exemption. In White County, around 15 percent of the county’s population could receive the homestead exemption if voters approve the measure.