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Property tax exemption safe for now

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Richmond County residents who haven't yet turned 65 can breathe a sigh of relief.

On Saturday, the Richmond County school board unanimously agreed to table for one year a proposal that would have modified the county's school property tax exemption for those 65 and older. It would have grandfathered in those already receiving the tax break, but in the future the amount of the exemption would be based on income.

The change would require approval by the Legislature and by voters in a referendum.

During a retreat Saturday, school board members said the idea -- first presented by Superintendent Dana Bedden in a recent meeting with the area legislative delegation as a way to recoup funding amid state budget cuts -- comes at a bad time as the economy continues to struggle. Board members also said it wasn't a popular idea in any age group, with newly elected member Patsy Scott saying that even those 35 years old in her district had voiced their displeasure.

"They want to have something to look forward to when they retire," she said.

Board member Frank Dolan said he feared that eliminating or reducing such an exemption could only hurt the county's efforts to reduce population decline.

"Anything we do to accelerate tax increases in Augusta, Ga., right now is going to be devastating in my opinion," he said. "We need to turn the flow around from Columbia County to here."

Dr. Bedden said he had "no personal stake" in the matter but had presented the idea as one way the system could address its financial challenges, to include recent state funding cuts. He said county officials have told him the senior exemptions represent at least $7 million, and that amount is increasing. In a previous meeting, he said that if that $7 million had been available to the school system this year there would have been no discussion about potential property tax increases and probably no teacher furloughs.

Dr. Bedden also cited other counties that have modified their exemptions based on income. He also noted that in Columbia County the school property tax exemption doesn't take effect until age 70.

In other action at Saturday's retreat, board members heard how in the next year there could be a settlement in a federal desegregation order that the system has operated under since 1964.

Ben Allen, the lawyer representing the original plaintiff, told board members at Saturday's retreat that he will work with board attorney Pete Fletcher and other school officials in the next year to address any lingering issues.

"It's our goal to negotiate a settlement agreement within one year," Mr. Fletcher said.

Officials have said that several steps, including infrastructure improvements, have been taken to address the order. But all agreed that more work is needed, with board member Barbara Pulliam noting, "We still refer to some schools as white schools and some as black schools."

Board members ended their Saturday meeting by deciding to continue the retreat at a 5 p.m. Tuesday meeting, where they will address 2010 legislative priorities proposed by the Georgia School Boards Association.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3851 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (11) Add comment
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JohnQPublic
5
Points
JohnQPublic 12/13/09 - 08:32 am
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0
Having senior citizens pay

Having senior citizens pay school tax is just like paying for "family plan" health care and not having any children. Why should older folks pay for any of it? The folks who should be paying school taxes are those with children in the school system whether they own property OR NOT. Just because someone with children does not own a home shouldn't exempt them from paying taxes. How about taxing non-property owning parents who have children in school?

JacquesUlar
0
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JacquesUlar 12/13/09 - 08:36 am
0
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Why should average middle

Why should average middle aged working and productive members of society pay for the care of seniors who merely use up oxygen, food and medical resources and contribute nothing in return?

dickworth1
954
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dickworth1 12/13/09 - 08:47 am
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0
To jacquesUlar, you should
Unpublished

To jacquesUlar, you should pay because when the seniors were
productive middle aged workers , they paid for ugly butt to go to school and live off our taxes.

JacquesUlar
0
Points
JacquesUlar 12/13/09 - 08:50 am
0
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dick, look at it in the

dick, look at it in the sarcastic humor tone it was written and intended.

dickworth1
954
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dickworth1 12/13/09 - 08:54 am
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I wonder what schools in
Unpublished

I wonder what schools in richmond county are referred to as white
schools? You've got to be kidding! If the "great" judge ruffin
had any sense he would not have wanted force busing which
has caused all the problems with the school system and still
today the transportation cost for the buses is out of sight, if
you did not have buses picking up all these kids how much would you save in revenue and besides if kids walked to school maybe it would keep them in shape healthwise.

alsway
0
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alsway 12/13/09 - 10:18 am
0
0
Retreat? Am I missing

Retreat? Am I missing something? Where is this retreat being held? Are they off somewhere spending taxpayer money instead of paying the salary of a teacher or purchasing needed supplies? Someone please clear this up for me!

enana031
0
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enana031 12/13/09 - 12:01 pm
0
0
Dana Bedden should look at

Dana Bedden should look at his own salary and bonuses before he suggests putting more of a burden on our senior citizens who are struggling to pay Richmond County property taxes with the school tax exemption they deserve. They have earned this and there should be no question about it staying in place. No wonder our citizens are all moving someplace besides disgusta!

JohnQPublic
5
Points
JohnQPublic 12/13/09 - 01:38 pm
0
0
Thanks dickworth1!

Thanks dickworth1!

Junket831
0
Points
Junket831 12/13/09 - 03:50 pm
0
0
No exemptions period, except

No exemptions period, except for those based on income. But even in those cases the exemption should not be total, but graduated. Once we keep giving exemptions to various groups pretty soon only a handful of individuals are actually paying for anything. The one way to keep the process in check is to involve all citizens in the process.

Little Lamb
43941
Points
Little Lamb 12/13/09 - 05:01 pm
0
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Most people begin paying

Most people begin paying school property taxes in their mid-twenties. By the time they are sixty-five, they have paid school taxes for forty years. THAT'S LONG ENOUGH!

jack
10
Points
jack 12/13/09 - 06:11 pm
0
0
Glad to see that the school

Glad to see that the school tax exemtion modification would take legislative and voter action. Those 65 and older have paid their school taxes while kids were in school and years after.. Time for the younger crowd to keep picking up the tab.

fandango
0
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fandango 12/13/09 - 07:20 pm
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why dont we let the pay czar

why dont we let the pay czar review mr beddens salary..

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