Cobb, Marietta offer seniors online tax opt-out

In both the county and city, property taxpayers age 62 and older can receive a full exemption from the local schools portion of their tax bills. Like other state and county exemptions, homeowners must apply for it. Unlike other counties in metro Atlanta, Cobb’s exemption does not include an income restriction and begins at the youngest age level, according to tax rules examined in a story this week by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Beginning next week, Cobb senior homeowners can elect to remove the exemption by completing a form on the tax commission’s Web site. The city of Marietta will also offer a form on its site once the county’s link is up and running, said Marsha Beard, Marietta’s tax manager. In the meantime, residents of both jurisdictions can contact the tax offices in the county and city.

Last year the exemption totaled $55 million. With the county school system cutting hundreds of teachers to close a $126.7 million budget gap for next year, some residents have recommended re-evaluating the exemption.

In the past Marietta has had residents who were grandparents of city school students who have voluntarily paid school taxes even though they were eligible for an exemption, Beard said.

“A lot of people think there are a lot more people getting the school tax exemption now, but percentagewise the number is no greater than it was 15 years ago,” she said.

In 1995, the city granted 2,214 school exemptions, or about 22 percent of the city’s residential properties, according to city tax records. In 2003, the exemptions increased to 2,353, but they accounted for 19.2 percent of the properties. The exemptions increased to 2,846, or 21.6 percent of the properties, in 2009.

“As the exemptions increased, so did the population,” Beard said. “And a lot of that increase was by people younger than 62.”

In addition to the voluntary removal, east Cobb resident Leslie Ann Dunn thinks the county should go a step further and cross-check records to identify seniors, including some grandparents caring for their grandchildren or their own school-age children.

Dunn, 41, who has been one of the most outspoken critics of the current exemption, has not yet decided whether she will voluntarily pay the taxes when the time comes.

“I have a 6-year-old in the system and could adopt other children later, I’m just not sure," she said. "I don’t have a problem paying school tax. We are financial supporters of the schools at all levels, and even when I reach 62 I cannot see that changing."

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