Editor, This letter is submitted in response to a recent letter to the editor titled “Seniors shouldn’t pay school taxes” (March 9). Based on responses my office received, this letter leads some homeowners to accept Mrs. Dot Moss’ information as factual. Some homeowners now question whether they have been denied their proper exemption from the school portion of their property taxes.
Mrs. Moss states that U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter’s office provided her with this information, and that it is according to Gov. Nathan Deal. Can they provide her something in writing to support her claims?
But here are a few places you can find the truth in print. One is a manual called “Georgia Senior Homeowner’s Resource Guide” found on the Georgia Department of Human Resources website. The exemption is also plainly explained on the GeorgiaLegalAid.org website. And there are other reliable sites where this information is found. Each resource gives the current Georgia law as it pertains to the exemptions that elderly homeowners may receive from paying school taxes. All of these resources clearly state that the state Legislature grants a maximum exemption of $10,000 to those who qualify based on age and income — only $10,000. Liberty County voters approved a referendum that grants an additional $15,000 in local exemptions for the same qualifying homeowner. Therefore, this gives a resident of Liberty County who qualifies a maximum exemption of $25,000 for school purposes.
To try to put it as simply as possible, instead of being taxed on the 40 percent value, or “taxable value,” of a property, the value is reduced by $25,000, which is how the property-tax amount becomes reduced. Once the taxable value is reduced by $25,000, any value remaining is used to calculate school taxes.
As an example, a home with a fair market value of $62,500 or less, which would give a 40 percent value or taxable value of $25,000 or less, should wipe out all school taxes. By the same method a home with a fair market value of $62,501, in theory, will have some taxable value remaining, which could produce some amount of school taxes.
So, unfortunately, unlike in some Georgia counties, the law does not give elderly homeowners a total exemption from paying school taxes in Liberty County. To call it “illegal” is simply a false and reckless statement. As good a benefit as this would be for many of our elderly, it simply does not exist. And Mrs. Moss’ letter misinforms, and therefore misleads, by providing incorrect information. The proper way to pursue a total exemption of school taxes for the qualified residents of our county is through your Board of Education and your state legislators.
In the meantime, any homeowner who would like to find out if they are qualified to receive what is currently the maximum benefit of the school tax exemption should contact the Assessors Office.
I hope that this letter will help to end the confusion caused by the writer’s misinformation.
Virgil M. Jones
Liberty County Tax Commissioner