Do away with seniors' exemption from school tax
May 09, 2010 12:00 AM | 3027 views | 32 32 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DEAR EDITOR:

I have been very frustrated by the Cobb County School Board's refusal to consider a major issue when looking at the budget, and that is reconsideration of the current state of the Senior Tax Exemption in Cobb. Currently, the way it works is that any Cobb resident over the age of 62, regardless of income, value of home, or number of children in the school system, is exempt from paying school taxes, period. I have written each CCSD board member about this, and the concern is that as 70 percent of the voters are over the age of 50, the board members would fear losing their jobs if they changed the exemption. The deal is, however, that no other major metro Atlanta county - Fulton, DeKalb, Cherokee, Gwinnett, Clayton - has this type of exemption. Each of these counties have exemptions that are capped at a certain salary level, or home value level. So, literally in Cobb, there are 62 year old millionaires living in million dollar homes who pay no school taxes. The kicker is that some of these 62 year olds even have children in the Cobb County public school system, and they aren't even paying school taxes. We know of at least two families who earn well over six figures who have children in public school yet who don't pay school tax because the father is 62.

This school tax exemption was created in the 1970s, but times have changed. Lifestyles have changed. Our kids today should not have to face class sizes of 40 simply because the school board members are concerned about losing their jobs. They need to do the right thing. Unfortunately, they are turning a deaf ear to this issue. That is why I am going to you. Please, do an article about this to raise awareness and put pressure on our lawmakers to do the right thing by ALL of Cobb.

Leslie Ann Dunn
Marietta
Comments
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Dixiechick59
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January 24, 2013
Speaking for those of us who have been forced for 30 years to pay for a free education for the children of people like Ms Dunn, it is the height of gall for her to suggest that we now continue to pay for the education of another generation of ingrates.

I have a better idea, Ms Dunn, why shouldnt the county levy a special tuition- based transfer tax on the homes of those with children enrolled in public schools, so that when the house is sold, the accumulated tax can be collected from the sales proceeds and used to fund the education of future students. At an average of even , say, 5K per year for 30 years, that would only amount to a paltry 150K .... About the same amount I would have in my bank account had I not been forced to pay for your child's education for 30 years.
C J White
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August 31, 2012
There are many people who have paid school tax since they first bought property and have absolutely no children. I've never understood why I should pay for your children to go to school. Especially those families who choose or simply not prevent having 3 or more children. I will certainly not recoup the amount of money under the current exemption since the odds of my living to 100 are pretty slim.

From my perspective, parents should pay the school systems a tuition just like any other educational instution and perhaps receive a income tax benefit.

Leslie Ann
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May 30, 2010
Please continue to put pressure on our county leaders to introduce a bill at the state level that will modify Cobb county's tax structure. This is the right thing for everyone. I am proposing modifications to the current structure that do NOT impact struggling seniors living on social security. If a child is being educated in Cobb living in a home where a 62 year old owns the mortgage, that home should be subject to school tax, period. Any exemption age should be raised, and should be subject to an income cap, just like every other county in metro Atlanta. Call/email Chip Rogers and your local representative about this!
Cobb County Voter
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May 29, 2010
I hope this issue will not go away. I do not think seniors should get a property tax exemption. Social Security and Medicare need to go away as well - these are socialist programs and have no place in a free-market republic.

Also, I dare the senate to pass that "doc fix" and add billions to the deficit! I will vote against Chambliss and Isakson if they vote for it.
Leslie Ann
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May 15, 2010
Hi Misterbill

I am just passing on the info my school board rep told me - that 70% of the voters are age 50 and older. This is VOTERS, not homeowners. I do not have the statistics as to whether or not this is correct; this is what the school board rep told me to pretty much get me to be quiet about this issue. In other words, the message was that this would never pass because the ones who actually vote would never let it pass, so drop it.

Regarding your point about using school as surrogate parents, I really don't have a way to comment on that. I know that in elementary school there is an "After School Program - ASP" that the parents pay for each day. There is no after school program in middle or high school.

My point in raising this issue is simply this: the senior tax exemption should be redesigned to exempt high wage earning homeowners in Cobb (regardless of age), high dollar value homeowners in cobb (regardless of age) and also homeowners who have children in school living at the homeowners residence (again, regardless of age.) Please - tell me what is wrong with that. I haven't seen a single argument yet.

Leslie Ann
misterbill
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May 14, 2010
Leslie

I have posted some math about this situation here, twice. I only see one of the posts. Do the math for heavens' sake/Your math is wrong. Someone else without thinking, I hope wanted to know what would happen as the population ages and there are more people without children in the schools. Someone else pointed out, then there wou8ld be fewer children in the schools. I fear many of the wealth distributors here and many who use the schools as surrogate parents.

Finally Leslie--please post the number of homes owned by those over 62 years of age. I suggest they are few.
MathPrep
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May 13, 2010
To Demographics: If 70% of the homeowners don't have kids in school, why would the district need so much money? Let's address the issue of too many people draining the system without paying, instead of squeezing more & more out of those that do. That is socialist thinking at it's most vile.
Indian Joe
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May 13, 2010
Don't worry Demographics - I am sure the schools will be filled with illegals.
Alan Faircloth
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May 12, 2010
Before ANY additional monies are considered for CCSD, I want to see changes and ensure that they are being judicious with the taxpayer's monies. Of course, this will require honesty and transparency on the part of CCSD and the board....something that continues to remain MIA.
Leslie Ann Dunn
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May 12, 2010
This law was created 40 years ago when it was unheard of to have a 62 year old with kids in school. Today, not so unbelievable. I am not advocating a total elimination of the senior tax exemption, rather placing restrictions on the exemption. If a senior has a school age child living in thier home, they should not be exempt from paying school tax. There is nothing wrong with this - fair is fair. Also, there should be an income cap. If the senior is earning more than 50K per year, they should not be subject to the school tax exemption. This will exclude those seniors living off of social security and interest income. Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett and Clayton all have income caps - but theirs are MUCH lower to what I am suggesting. Also, Cherokee has a home value cap of 1 acre of land and $350K home values. I think this should be applied as well. This will cover seniors living in retirement communities. The point of this exemption was to give assistance to seniors who are income compromised - not provide a loophole to millionaire seniors living in half a million dollar homes. Everyone benefits from a quality school system.

Fair is fair. I think the senior school tax exeption should be raised to 65, exclude those who have kids 18 or under living at the residence, and subject to a household income cap of $50k and a home value cap of $350k. This would exclude the seniors living in senior-type communities living off of social security. There is objectively nothing wrong with this.

I contacted the Cobb Tax Assessors office and they sent me the history of this legislation. The original law as drafted had an income cap that was in line with Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Clayton, etc. In the approval stage, the cap was removed. So - my suggesting this isn't completely far fetched because it was intended to be part of the law when it was conceived.

We need to start lobbying our political forces to take a second look at this exemption. Everyone benefits from a good school system. Everyone.

Leslie Ann Dunn

Leslie Ann Dunn
Kim Huffman
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May 11, 2010
Puhleeze: I don't have kids, but I still pay taxes toward education because it is more an indicator of property values. Try getting outside your little circle and visit towns and cities with higher education standards, like those found in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Utah and places that value and educated populace, and don't mind paying the taxes to have it. Higher standards of living, for the most part. I live in East Cobb, with good schools that have kept property values up...and thats good for Seniors, too....as far as churches go, its ridiculous that they get away from using land, infrastructure, streets, fire and police protection and don't pay taxes.
Demographics
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May 11, 2010
In a few years, more than 30% of all homeowners in the County will be over 62. No one has any idea how big the number is going to get, or how fast, or begun to calculate the cost or consequences. In a few years, close to 70% of all homeowners in the County will have no children in the school system. No one has any idea how that reality is going to impact the operations of the school district. Someone needs to get an idea. To the leadership of the CCSD - you better start looking at the future. As a near billion$ annual operation will billions more in real estate assets - your complete cluelessness to these critical issues is truly amazing.
puhleeze
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May 11, 2010
Atta girl, Kim. Wave your liberal progressive wealth-redistribution flag. We wouldn't expect anything else from you, like a realistic world view, for instance. I guess all those church owners and seniors put their thousands of children into the schools and overburdened the system, right? "Seniors benefit from an educated Cobb"? What were you on when you came up with that beauty?
A senior
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May 11, 2010
I moved to Cobb County 28 years ago with no

school age children. I paid school taxes all

those years with no complaint. If the school system does not have enough money, the parents of every school child should bail them out, not me.

I have more than done my duty. Let the parents

pay the bill if they want thier children to go

to school.
Kim Huffman
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May 11, 2010
Seniors benefit from an educated Cobb, just like people under 62 do, so why an exemption?, not all are on fixed incomes, or suffering at the grocery store, my God, many seniors are getting social security , Medicare and other socialist benefits.

And why are churches exempt from property taxes, look at the sprawl of complexes like Johnson Ferry Baptist and Roswell Street, and the huge Catholic church property owners...all exempt and shielding property from fair taxation that would help out the vaunted, envied education system in Cobb ( and thats why people from Fulton and Sandy Springs are moving over the river ).

anonymous
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May 10, 2010
Civuiliuty-

I did not express myself properly--

"PS Most of us seniors, I believe voted for the SPLOST.(Never knowing that in a time of financial crisis it would be use for artificial turf.)" --

what I meant to say was that in times of financial distress or crisis, exception should be made to use the money to keep the schools operating and teachers employed.

I have no problem with using the money for turf under normal circumstances. Today---???
Indian Joe
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May 10, 2010
It must be very nice Leslie to ponit to Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett Cos when you are trying to make a point for your position. You know what, there are a lot of houses for sale in these counties - wny don't you go buy one there if you don't like the way Cobb Co is operated. Your point of view is one of the reasons we have so much class envy, class warfare in this country right now. Funny, I don't ever hear anyone talking about removing the exemptions from all of the others who receive an extra exemption, usually more than what the seniors receive. Do you think that the older folks are not equipped to take you on - you have another think coming - these are the people who built this county, this country, through their sacrafices - now apparently you want to penalize them for one of the few perks they get for being oldsters. Never mind that for most earning extra money is not possible, that many are sobbing at the grocery store because of the rapidly escalating prices of necessities, and the government in its infimate wisdom decided there would be no increase in social security, not just for 2010 but also 2011 as cost of living has not and will not increase, while at the same time giving themselves an increase. Why do you people like you think the only answer to a budget crisis is to RAISE TAXES? You should run for a federal office - you would fit right in with those in power now.
Civility
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May 10, 2010
Replies to several bloggers-

Raising the exemption age to 65 sounds reasonable.

If you are going to determine whether someone pays the school tax based on the value of the property, then have that value high. Many, many seniors have paid on their home for many yrs. & it is not fair to force them out, just because they managed to pay off their mortgage.

Once seniors reach a certain age, they do not really have the option of raising their income. They can't go out & get a better Social Security or retirement check. So they really are on a "fixed income" & not paying school taxes helps with the rising cost of medical care & living expenses.

We really should not have to school illegals, but the federal gov't requires that. Do away with that law, secure the borders, & sendd ALL illegals back. Our school & economic problems have been enlarged due to illegals.

Start budget reductions at the top on Glover St. NOW!!

To misterbill- If you did not know the last SPLOST included artificial turf, then you did not read the bill or the MDJ. It was discussed quite extensively.

MFN
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May 10, 2010
I have no children and I have lived in Cobb County most of my life. I have been paying to have other people's children educated for well over 30 years. I will soon be 60 yo and I am looking forward to the younger generation taking over the school tax issue. Some 62 yo may be wealthy but many of the seniors have major health issues and their income drops markedly with age. I am and have always been in favor of a tax for each child paid by his or her parents. This would cover illegals as their parents would be required to turn loose of the cash they earn and often send back to their respective countries, rather than expecting us to take care of educating their children.
East Cobber
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May 10, 2010
I have mixed feeling about this and have said so in the past. I feel the "perk" to seniors was originally well intentioned, however today we may question the logic.

If change was possible, the age needs to be raised to 65 and maybe install some cap (Cherokee does offer a senior exemption but is tied to appraised value cap).

The senior tax break is a big factor in keeping me and others in Cobb County and not defecting to our norther neighbor...
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