Decatur’s homestead exemptions pass House, but school exemptions tabled

Decatur’s three homestead exemption bills passed the House Tuesday morning, but in a surprise move City Schools Decatur’s proposed exemptions were pulled by Rep. Beth Beskin, R-Atlanta.

Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett attended Tuesday’s session at the Capital and said she spoke afterwards with Beskin, a member of the House Education Committee.

“[Beskin] told me,” Garrett said, “this had nothing to do with the city of Decatur, but she wants support for senior tax exemptions in her district. This is similar to what happened to our bill last year, when it got caught up in partisan discussions.”

Decatur Superintendent David Dude, who was in meetings all day Tuesday, was not immediately available for comment.

CSD is seeking an exemption for residents 65 and over, meaning they wouldn’t pay the school ad valorem tax on their homes. It’s been estimated seniors would save $993 for every $100,000 in value of the home.

The school resolution, however, includes a five-year sunset provision, meaning the exemption could be revised — likely to add an income restriction — after five years.

The city’s homestead exemptions, which passed Tuesday, are actually three separate bills:

  • Increase in the General Homestead Exemption for all residential owner-occupied properties from $20,000 to $25,000 off half the assessed value of a home.
  • Increase the General Homestead Exemption for homeowners 65 years or older from $1000 to $10,000
  • Create a General Homestead Exemption for homeowners 62 and over whose household income does not exceed $50,000 in the amount of $15,000.

The annual tax bill reduction for a $400,000 house, for instance, would range from about $60 for a resident homeowner who does not qualify for additional age or income considerations, to $340 for a resident homeowner who meets all age and income qualifications.

“Our DeKalb delegation wanted all the local legislation to stay together,” Garrett said. “It’s unusual to have something pulled out like this. But my thought is [the school exemptions] will come up for a vote before the legislative session ends.”