School tax is optional for seniors
by Kathryn Dobies
kdobies@mdjonline.com
June 04, 2010 12:00 AM | 3775 views | 25 25 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA - Homeowners older than age 62 who wish to pay the school portion of their property taxes are welcome to do so, Tax Commissioner Gail Downing said Thursday.

That's because the exemption is optional, she said. Owners must apply for it at some point, but can remove it at any time.

"It's a homeowner's wish. If they would like to have the exemption repealed, I'll be happy to do that," she said. Interested homeowners can email Downing's office at tax@cobbtax.org to request the form.

The generous exemption, by which homeowners older than 62 don't have to pay any school taxes on their property, is part of the reason the Cobb School District is facing a $127 million reduction for its fiscal year 2011 budget.

The school board is expected to approve the $819 million budget at its next meeting, June 9.

"I've received comments that a lot of people think it's too lenient, that they should be paying the tax," Downing said. "I've had a lot of comments from people saying 'I wouldn't mind paying the tax.' It just occurred to me that if there are really people out there that want to pay the tax, it's voluntary."

Currently, 39,171 homeowners in Cobb take advantage of the exemption. Cobb School leaders have said the senior exemption cost the district nearly $64 million in revenue in 2009.

Eligible seniors can reapply for the exemption in later years, if they wish. Applications to receive the exemption are due by April 1 to take effect in the same year.

Board Chairwoman Lynnda Crowder-Eagle said she was unaware that the senior exemption was optional, but doubted that would change the mind of many seniors.

"If there was someone who wanted to forfeit that exemption and allow it to go to us, that would be great," Crowder-Eagle said. "I don't predict that a lot of people will, because in this time, most people feel that they've paid into the school taxes. It's one of those things that I think is very appealing about Cobb County."

Crowder-Eagle said she does not intend to bring up the exemption option at the June 9 meeting.

Downing said her office will remove the exemption of any senior homeowner who notifies her office in writing, and the change will take effect immediately.

Property tax bills will be mailed Aug. 15, as usual. Removal requests can be made at any time, and the tax office will send an adjusted bill, if necessary. For more information, visit www.cobbtax.org or call 770-528-8600.

City of Marietta residents apply for the exemption through the city's tax office, so removal requests must go through there as well. And Marsha Beard, the city's tax manager, said she can recall one or two people asking for their exemption to be removed.

The City of Marietta tax office can be reached at 770-794-5680.
Comments
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Firefly7071
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June 21, 2010
Seniors not having to pay for our schools? Ok... Now why do I have to keep paying for THEIR Social Security and Medicare!!! I am sick of this country spending MOST of its money on the elderly. I am 30 and I know that I will not get SS. So I have already put into retirement savings over $175,000. Why haven't these retirees planned for the future! It doesnt make logical sense not to build a strong base. We need to educate these kids, or they become the dead beat elderly just living off of SS and Medicaid! I get it. Politicians know that people over 62 are the big votes, so they pass laws that keep their voters happy, but logically that doesn't make any sense.
1EldrlyPerstoretire
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March 12, 2013
My dear, you need to get your facts straight. Everyone who pays into the social security and medicare system pays for it themselves. Our Seniors that are drawing their monthly pensions have already paid into it through the wages that they earned. It's their money not yours. But how about those that have come to our country who receive disability or elderly pensions who have never paid in or have paid in only for 6 months? How about the system supporting their children that get disability, etc. and have never contributed a dime to the system? I for one have been paying into the system since I was 16 and have not starting receiving my monthly pension as of this day. The monies that I get when I do start drawing are monies that I paid. Doesn't have anything to do with what you might have contributed thus far. Check it out sweetie.
attnsaveoak
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June 09, 2010
Please help Oakwood High School continue to serve Cobb County Students!

Must act now!

(You are still able to sue and have them STOP the closure b/c of due process violations.)

6/9 CCSD Board Meeting-Wednesday-come to speak; come to support Public Comments -

7:30 AM sign in to speak

Board Meeting, comments - 8:30 AM

514 Glover St. Marietta, Georgia 30080

(Legal Adoption of the FY2011 Budget at Regular Board Meeting)
an american
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June 08, 2010
i say amen to pat h.'s thought.of course it would,also be a good thing to get rid of sanderson and the board.i know i'll be in the front line on voting day.
wakeupcall
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June 05, 2010
Amazing! We are going to punish seniors because we don't have enough revenue to pay for schools. If we are going to punish them lets do it for the right reason....raising a bunch of whining, ungrateful children that still think that we owe them something!!!I'm not taling about the ones in school, I'm talking about the adults??? Why look to our parents to continue to pay our bills and those of our children?? Grow up and take care of your own. Quit expecting your parents to pay your bills. Seniors should be through paying for their children, but sadly that is not so. One tax break is not going to fix what is wrong here. Let's start looking at the real problem...GREED and WASTE in the school system. And No I am not 62 and getting the tax break. Let's stop the blame game and move on to find a real solution!
Don't Blame
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June 05, 2010
Don't blame the problems the school board is having on the senior citizens. That is definitely the farthest thing from the truth.

Blame the state of Georgia for taking $150 million of Cobb's property taxes and giving our money to other GA counties to support their schools. This is the QBE formula that no one seems to know about.

Blame the QBE formula!
Cobb teacher/parent
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June 04, 2010
To "Indian Joe" - I am one of the teachers who was laid off because of the RIF (since I only had 2 years teaching in Cobb County - 15 years of teaching experience, overall). I have two children (one with severe special needs) and a wife to support, and I am now without a job. And for your information, I DO volunteer to pay more school tax. I have intentionally NOT reassesed my home value on principle, so, therefore, I end up paying a higher property tax.

After reading this article, I wonder if Linda Crowder-Eagle, who says she is so deeply heart-broken over these teacher lay-offs, will now volunteer to pay her property tax? I doubt it. Put your money where your mouth is, Linda.

If they decide to get rid of the senior exemption, it should be phased out over time, and it should still apply to seniors who earn lower incomes and/or own a house below a certain value. However, high-income seniors should be forced to contribute their fair share (at least up to the age of 65 like most other Georgia counties). The education of our children is the responsibility of ALL CITIZENS, not just those with children. If I do not get rehired, I am considering running for the School Board to replace David Banks. Most of the Board is basically clueless and have done NOTHING to plan ahead for this crisis.
Obsolete formula
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June 04, 2010
The QBE formula currently being used in GA took $150 million of Cobb's property taxes and gave them to other GA counties. Why should we have to pay property taxes in Cobb and then Cobb have to turn around and give these taxes to other counties?

This obsolete formula needs to be dropped. Times have changed since its inception nearly thirty years ago. It's time for each county take care of themselves. Let Cobb keep all of its money.
Change QBE formula!
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June 04, 2010
The current shortfall in Cobb County is NOT the senior citizens' fault! Many of the senior citizens in this county are living in modest homes and are not wealthy as some have stated.

The main culprit is the outdated QBE formula that was passed by our state legislators in the 1980's. By using this formula, our county had to give back to the state of GA around $150 million of Cobb's property taxes so that our state could give it to other counties. If we were not FORCED to give our property taxes to poorer counties in this state, we would of had the money necessary to meet this year's school budget.

The citizens of this county need to DEMAND that this 30 year old QBE formula be changed. We would not be in this predicament if we were allowed to keep our money.

Blame Cobb's money shortfall on the QBE formula!!!

Yeah Right
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June 04, 2010
The concept of “optional taxes” has got to be the more asinine idea I ever heard. Who pays taxes if they don’t have to? How about this why don’t every family in Cobb County just volunteer to folk over $500. I bet that would solve this budget crisis.

So in an economic crisis we expect our seniors whom most are on fixed incomes to just pay more taxes. I guess since they have not given enough to our country we should tax the hell out of them.

This would be political suicide for any elected official to suggest this idea. Cobb is an anti-tax county which is very much Conservative and Republican. The seniors are the strongest voting block and it would be foolish to push this idea.

Last school year there was a $58 million dollar deficit. And nothing was done. This year we have a $126 million dollar deficit and I have not heard any legit way of solving this besides gutting the personnel. Guess what property values are currently decreasing, foreclosures are at an all-time high, and unemployment at double digits. If you think its bad now wait till next year and they you’re really going to cry.

Leave Them Alone
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June 04, 2010
Leave the seniors alone. We will all be there someday, hopefully. Seniors are not the reason, nor part of the reason, we are having this problem. Cobb County School District has had too many chiefs with private agendas and too much fluff for years. Get real!
Steve Rhinehart
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June 04, 2010
This is for all you who cry about equity. "Why should seniors be exempt from helping ME pay for the education of MY children?" Well here,s a novel idea. Lets say that the average school taxes in Cobb County amounts to $ 600.00 a year. Let's say that the average taxpayer has two children in school. That amounts to $ 300.oo per child. But, wait, the family with 4 children in the school system still only pays $ 600.00. Maybe the taxing needs to be based on the number of children in school. No kids. no tax. One kid, $300.00, two kids $600.00, three kids $ 900.00, etc. Get the picture? Let those using the system pay for it on a pro-rata basis. Heck, even tack on a "penralty of $ 75.00 a year for not having any children."

Part of the solution to the problem is not in taxing the people who can least afford it. It is in reducing the wasteful spending at the administration level. How many textbooks are there in the warehouses, which have never been unpacked? How much "advanced technology" is sitting in classrooms, purchase from some wild eyed, "pie-in-the sky" salesman (maybe with a kickback to someone), but never utilized because it was not worth a tinker's dam to begin with? Do you realize that the total compensation package for our football coach superintendent is around a half million dollars a year, counting all benefits and the double dipping retirment he receives? That much for producing little or no improvement.

Wake up, people. It is not the fault of the seniors. It is the fault of voter apathy. We keep electing the same dunces because it is easier than finding out what they have been doing behind our back. We have a chance to elect three people who will make a difference. Two of the problems (the two Dr. Johns) are history, not even running.

Replace Holli Cash with a real person and we have a chance of taking back control from Coach Fred.
Rick Z
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June 04, 2010
I don't understand why this issue is being framed in an all-or-nothing context. Senior school tax exemptions like Cobb's are common throughout the metro area, though Cobb's may be on the generous side. Perhaps the first $100,000 or $200,000 of homestead value for seniors should be exempt and the rest taxed. Perhaps, for seniors below a certain income limit, more should be exempted. Or perhaps they should be taxed, but at a lower rate. Perhaps seniors taking the standard state income tax deduction should be entitled to take a (nonrefundable) credit for property tax paid. It might be helpful to the debate for the MDJ to compare what other counties are doing and analyze potential revenue impacts.
catlady1
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June 04, 2010
It is about time this issue is being brought up. Everyone needs to pay their fair share. People are working longer, way past 62 in many cases. There are other routes to be exempted if you cannot truly afford to pay these taxes. There are also a lot of grandparents raising their grandchildren and blended families living in one household. Who do you think holds the title to that house?? The person who gets the exemption! This exemption should have been done away with or at the very least have the age increased to 70.
Curious One
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June 04, 2010
I am cruious as to whether Crowder Eagle understands that her Homestead exemption on her home is also "optional", so why did she claim it ?Under Georgia's QBE the state should be paying 80% of the k-12 costs and locals pay the 20%, but now we locals are paying 60% and the state is shortchanging the districts 40% per Kathy Kox. So who pays the $250K for the superintendent and all of those dozens of assistant superintendents, specialist, athletic directors, coaches and lawyers Brock and Clay ? It looks like the locals are paying with the property taxes on our homes. Time to trim the local share dramatically and force the Board to operate on the 80% state money and only 20% from local property and scrap the rest of the expenses and positions beginning with the 2M to Brock and Clay.
Indian Joe
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June 04, 2010
I for one am sick to death of people using "the children" for any and every thing. If you people are so concerned that you want to hit people who are on fixed incomes, many unable to work or if they do work for minimum wage, why don't you "volunteer" to pay MORE? You are the ones with kids in school - not the seniors, who paid for many years when and if they had kids in school and for many years after their kids were out of school. As I said, it is amazing that everyone should "feel the pain", EXCEPT teachers or anyone that has anything to do with children. Suck it up people - everyone is hurting. And incidentally, for those of you who are unaware, seniors pretty much took a cut in social security this year and for 2011 since there was no COLA and the cost of everything has gone up. You politicians just remember, SENIORS vote and they are by and large very upset that they are being blamed for the teacher layoffs. Maybe someone ought to look at the real cause: illegals, too much pay for administration costs, too many Chiefs and not enough Indians. Have yet to hear any of these teachers suggest taking a pay cut until the economy improves - how many teachers out of this 1000 could keep their jobs if every teacher retained took a 15% pay/benefits cut? Most everyone else is taking cuts, having furlough days and losing benefits - but of course not the teachers because of "the children"
Already Paid!!
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June 04, 2010
I’m glad to find out the seniors are to blame for teacher layoffs. I would have thought the school board and lack of fore casting budget was to blame. I know this recession happened over night though. We always need a scapegoat, so hang the seniors. When your 24 by 7 baby sitters leave town you might know why. I find it hard to believe that the average tax break is $1641.00 for seniors and if it is I wouldn’t run those grandparents out of Cobb County, they would have a lot of cash on hand.
cloclo
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June 04, 2010
When I was under 62, I paid a bit more school tax because seniors were exempted from paying it. My excess payments could be considered "prepayments" of what I would have paid after 62 if there had been no senior exemption. Thus removing the senior exemption now seems unfair. Ask homeowners who are now 60 and 61 and are looking forward to 62.

Some seniors are affluent, but by and large seniors can't go out and earn a living like younger people can and their income is limited. Employment is often beyond their reach because some seniors are too old, some are ill, and many feel the subtle sting of age discrimination.

There is also a pragmatic reason to exempt seniors from the school tax. When the school board wants to issue school bonds, it can induce seniors not to vote against the bonds by reminding them these bonds would not increase their taxes. If seniors were subjected to school property taxes, they'd be much more motivated to go vote NO than the younger people who are parents with kids in our public schools.

Keep in mind that the school property tax exemption applies only to the homestead, and not to other property seniors may own, and that seniors pay sales taxes (state and local) used for our public school system.

FuzzyMath
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June 04, 2010
First, it's my understanding that a senior citizen saves about 2/3 of their taxes when not paying the school tax. My mother's taxes on a $140,000 house are around $100 a year; so she is saving about $200. My taxes are about $600 a year; so I am saving about $1,200 a year. If we have approximately 40,000 senior citizens in Cobb, I don't understand how this would amount to an extra $64 million as Ms. Downing states if seniors had to start paying propety taxes.

Next, do the citizens of Cobb County realize that the QBE formula that is currently being used by our state, is robbing our county of $150 million dollars each year to support schools in poorer counties in our state and that these counties are paying lower millage rates than Cobb? This is the 'spread the wealth' philosophy. This is what people should be screaming about....our state stealing $150 million of Cobb taxpayers money each year and giving to other counties to support their schools. If Cobb could keep the property taxes that they are paying, then we would not be in this mess. PLEASE don't be fooled into thinking it's the senior citizens that are causing this problem! It's the QBE formula!!!

Leave the seniors alone and change the QBE formula!

Seniors wake up
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June 04, 2010
I have news for people who think they should not be paying taxes, YOu are the reason we are losing teachers. When Cobb schools go down hill and all of the undesirable people strat moving in, blame youselves! I think it is horrible that seniors would not help their own school community. We have 1000 people who are having to apply for unemployment because of the seniors. Please take yourself off of the exemption to help the schools. As things improve, you can always reapply! Do the right thing.
Harry Smith
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June 04, 2010
Why don't you make it optional for "all" residents of Cobb County to pay this tax, that way it's fair and equal? This law should have never been passed to begin with. Talk about reverse age discrimination. (Giving one group of citizens a tax break based upon their age)Where is a good lawyer who wants to be part of a class action lawsuit when you need one?
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