Almost 30 years ago when we were transferred to Atlanta, we chose to buy a home and raise our children in Cobb County in large part because of the reputation of the school system. I’m sure many of you did the same. I also came to learn that the county had a reputation for fiscal responsibility, so that it enjoyed a triple-A bond rating for its debt obligations. I have always felt I was getting my tax money’s worth, especially in comparison to the high-tax state from which we had come.
Our kids are now gone and are prospering, in part, because of the elementary and high school educations they received.
My job is over, but the next generation of parents is now trying to educate their kids in a difficult economy and at a time when the only way to a rewarding career and any security is a good education.
It is with this in mind that I address a growing concern over the shortfall in tax revenue the Cobb school system has faced for the passed several years, necessitating budget cuts and the resulting teacher furloughs, layoffs and increased class sizes. This is no way to attract and retain talented people to the teaching profession and no way to ensure the course development to prepare students for future jobs. In addition, the problem will only grow as the number of senior citizens is ever increasing. Thus, after some careful thought, I am going to argue against my own financial self-interest and suggest a change in the school tax forgiveness arrangement now in place for those over 62 years of age.
I don’t think it would be necessary to altogether do away with this tax break for seniors, but I believe it could be modified to temporarily raise money to carry the County school system over these difficult years until more normal economic times bring in greater revenues.
Consider the following possibilities:
One would be to simply raise the qualifying age. A nearby county sets the school tax forgiveness qualifying age at 70.
Another way would be to gauge the senior school tax obligation on a percentage basis tied to the revenue shortfall in any given year; thus in years in which the tax revenues meet the needs of the school system, 100 percent of the tax could be forgiven, in lean years a lesser corresponding amount.
As it turns out, now may be an opportune time to consider this change which will affect the incomes of our seniors. The state income tax will be lower in future years because the personal exemption will go up and the ad valorem tax on vehicles is being eliminated.