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Homestead exemption age requirement drops to 70
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A new group of Gainesville residents will get an extra break on their taxes next year if they apply by the deadlines.

Voters decided in the city's special election Tuesday that full homestead exemptions can now apply to those 70 and older - dropping the age requirement from 72 to 70.

The vote came in at 87 percent, or 4,582 votes, for the age change and 12 percent, or 665 votes, against the exemption.

"People were anxious to get it lowered with the county already getting an exemption at 70," said Dee Dee Stephens, Gainesville tax coordinator. "We put the notice on the tops of our tax bills to let people know that they may qualify for an exemption, especially if they're new to the area and don't know. We'll also put it on the government TV channel. We want every property owner to know."

Hall County voters approved a similar change in November 2008, and state legislators approved the same move for the city in June. The new age exemption will take effect Jan. 1.

Gov. Sonny Perdue signed the House Bill 1255 in June. A partial exemption applies for residents ages 62 to 70 if the family income falls below $25,000.

Under the referendum, all people are fully exempt from school taxes at age 70 regardless of income.

When 92 percent of voters approved the change for Hall County in 2008, some residents missed the exemption application deadline with the Hall County Tax Assessors Office. The application period opens Jan. 1, with the partial exemption deadline for ages 62 to 70 on March 1 and the full exemption deadline for ages 70 and older on May 1.

Taxpayers who applied for a partial school tax exemption at age 62 do not have to reapply for the full exemption when they turn 70.

However, a taxpayer's birth date must be in the tax assessors' database by May 1 for the automatic exemption to take effect.

The total revenue change for the schools comes in at $39,208, which shouldn't affect the school system too much, said Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer.

"The homestead exemption doesn't impact us nearly as much as the exempt properties for hospitals, universities and churches," she said. "We'll just budget to not have this money next year. It's one of those things with any legislative action or new policy. We just have to adjust and plan for it."