Upson County resident Milton Chapman came before the Thomaston-Upson Board of Education at their October meeting to ask if the board has thought about eliminating the school tax portion of property tax from the elderly. Chapman said there are some counties in Georgia that set an age limit of 65 or 75, and after that age, residents don’t pay school tax.
Board Chairman Terrell Jackson said under the current economy, the school system cannot afford to completely exempt the elder.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Chapman, we are not an affluent county,” said Jackson. “I don’t know if we’ve ever discussed that as a policy, but it would be difficult for us to do that because we have so many people over the age of 65 in our community. It would bind us in being able to provide adequately for our children. But I completely understand, because I’m over 65, too.”
Board member Keith Rohling added that in comparison to what the school system spends per student, it would be take forever for a homeowner with children to pay back the money spent.
“We spend approximately $5,000 per year per student,” said Rohling. “For the 13 years that they are with us (K-12) that is $65,000. Personally, I have three children who have gone through the school system here, so that’s right at $200,000. My school tax, which has actually gone down this year, has been around $1,000 a year. It would take me 200 years to pay that money back to the community where my children were raised.”
Chapman responded by stating that the school tax takes up around 60 percent of his tax bill.
“I understand,” replied Rohling, “but what I’m trying to say is if I were to try to repay everything the community has given my children, I’ll never be able to do it, because I’m not going to live to be 200 years old. So everybody in the community is helping to support each child.”
Chapman said he would continue to promote no school tax for the elder.
“I’m not going to give up on this,” he said. “I think the people that have gotten as old as we are – I’ll even bite down and say take it off when we’re 75 years old. But I think they’ve paid their share of school taxes.”
Board member Miriam Elsey noted that senior citizens who qualify already get a discounted rate off of school taxes.
“At 65 and over, there is a small discount,” said Elsey. “After we consolidated and Marvin Adams was our representative, he introduced in the state legislature and they approved an exemption for senior citizens 65 and older. So those of us under 65 will pay a higher percent of tax than those over 65.”
Editor’s Note: According to the Upson County Tax Commissioner’s web page, individuals 62 years of age or over that are residents of each independent school district may claim an additional exemption from all ad valorem taxes for educational purposes and to retire school bond indebtedness if the income of that person and his spouse does not exceed $10,000 for the prior year. Income from retirement sources, pensions, and disability income is excluded up to the maximum amount allowed to be paid to an individual and his spouse under the federal Social Security Act. The owner must notify the tax assessors office if for any reason they no longer meet the requirements for this exemption. This exemption may not exceed $10,000 of the homestead’s assessed value.