(UPDATE) Decatur School Board blasts legislator over blocking of tax exemption bill
UPDATE: Rep. Beskin has responded to our request for an interview. To read her side of the story, click here.
The Decatur School Board is furious at a state representative’s move to block a bill that would expand a homestead tax exemption for seniors.
The House approved bills to expand the homestead tax exemptions for city of Decatur seniors, but pulled a bill expanding the exemption for school taxes. State Rep. Beth Beskin, R-Atlanta, objected to the bill, reportedly because she wants the same kind of legislation in Atlanta but hasn’t gotten support for it. Decaturish has reached out to Beskin for a comment. To see what she had to say, click here.
Currently, residents age 80 and older receive a homestead exemption on school taxes. The school board would like to see the age lowered to 65.
Board member Garrett Goebel said during the board’s March 8 meeting that with the rising taxes in Decatur, Beskin’s actions could result in seniors being forced out of their homes.
“Rep. Beskin is holding our bill hostage, and by holding our senior homestead exemption bill hostage Rep. Beskin will be displacing seniors from their homes and that is unconscionable,” Goebel said.
School Board Chair Annie Caiola blasted Beskin.
“I am mad,” Caiola said. “I think that Rep. Beskin’s conduct is childish and I think that any other state representative and speaker of the house that allows this to continue is equally as childish … and it is frustrating. It makes you lose a lot of confidence in those that are purportedly representing all of us down at the Capitol.”
Late Tuesday evening, the city issued a statement calling upon residents to let legislators know how they feel about the decision to put the bill on hold.
Mayor Patti Garrett said, “Our delegation members understand the need for property tax relief, particularly for our seniors, and I hope the Republican leadership will also understand our position and consider the merits and value to the citizens of Decatur of the senior homestead tax exemptions.”
City Schools of Decatur spokesperson Courtney Burnett said in order for the bill to be reconsidered, the speaker of the House will need to recognize state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur.
“Whether or not the speaker will do this, we don’t know,” Burnett said.
The decision to seek the expanded homestead tax came as the School Board asked voters to approve a $75 million general obligation bond for school construction, which voters did in November by an overwhelming margin. The bond will result in a tax increase to pay off the debt. The legislation was proposed as an attempt to alleviate concerns about the tax burden on seniors.