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Property tax reform is overdue

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POSTED: February 3, 2010 2:22 p.m.
Some important news came out of Atlanta on Monday, when Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, a Woodstock Republican, introduced what he called a “much needed” overhaul of Georgia’s property tax system. In doing so, Rogers acknowledged what most homeowners have known all along: the current system is a mess.
His bill, Senate Bill 346, would include things such as year-round property appeals and require annual notice of assessments. It would also allow counties to accept payment plans for property taxes and give discounts for early payments, while also establishing time limits for assessors to respond to appeals. That will likely please homeowners who have long been frustrated by the way things are currently done.
But that’s not the important news. What is important is what Rogers said in his press release.
We quote from the release, verbatim.
“Ultimately, the property tax must be eliminated.”
This is not the first time a high-level state official has talked about the demise of property taxes. Former House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram, made a push a few years back to get rid of property taxes entirely. He was obviously unsuccessful, but his stance helped push the issue onto the front burner and generate some reform.
Of course, more work needs to be done in this regard, starting with ending the notion of taxing individuals with an amount based on something as transitory as market conditions. That’s unfair both to taxpayers and local governments forced with providing services and finding a way to pay for them. Remember, as long as the public expects government to provide a laundry list of services ranging from recreation to water and sewer, then those are going to have to be funded.
That’s why any real property tax reform — any real tax reform, period — has to start with a long, honest conversation about what we expect government to do and how we’re going to pay for it. Should, for example, tax dollars go toward funding recreation facilities or providing vehicles for government employees? Those are just two of dozens of questions that deserve some thought.
Rogers noted that there isn’t the political will to eliminate property taxes in Georgia at present. Again, quoting from his press release: “That sort of change takes place gradually and this is just the beginning,”
We hope he’s serious. And we urge property owners to keep beating the drum for change.
 

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