Colton Moore, Dade's new voice in the Georgia House of Representatives, will hold a town-hall-style meeting at 3 p.m. this Sunday, Feb. 24, at the Dade Senior Center, 9622 Highway 11 South, Trenton.
Moore said by phone on Monday that the meeting will not be on just one issue but will cover the entire Georgia legislative session. On the other hand, he acknowledged that modification of the so-called 65/5 property tax exemption will loom large on the agenda, and said one purpose of the meeting was to get out the correct information about the proposed changes.
"I'm receiving several calls from seniors every day," said Moore. Seniors are alarmed because they are under the impression that they would be losing the exemption, he said. "They haven't been told what this really is," he said.
An important point of the proposed changes to 65/5 that Moore said some callers aren't grasping is that it grandfathers in seniors who have already claimed the exemption; the school board is not proposing to take away the exemption from anyone now claiming it.
Another reason Moore, 25, says he is hosting the meeting is to give those angered by the proposal a chance to voice their objections. He says he's open to constructive criticism.
And asked whether what he hears has any chance of altering what goes before the voters for referendum, Moore replied, "Absolutely. We do still have time to make changes to what goes on the ballot."
Since 2005, Dade has allowed residents 65 and older not to pay the school tax--which makes up the majority of the typical county property tax bill--on their homes and up to five acres of attached land. On Feb. 4, the Dade County Board of Education approved a resolution requesting that amendments to the blanket exemption be put to the voters in a referendum. The proposed changes are capping the exemption at $150,000 of home value and requiring those claiming it to have lived in Dade a minimum of five years. The residency requirement was
an issue Colton Moore campaigned on in last year's election.
(Photo: Colton Moore, Dade's youngest-ever elected official, learns by phone on Election Night 2018 of his victory.)
The school board has long maintained that 65/5 starves the system more each year as additional baby boomers turn 65 and opt out of supporting the schools that in many cases educated them, their children and their grandchildren. It has also pointed out that the value of luxury homes on Lookout Mountain has skewed Dade's wealth statistics, making the system ineligible for the supplemental money it used to receive from the state for being one of the poorer school systems.
And it argues that allowing seniors not to pay taxes on the first $150,000 of home value would accomplish the original intent of 65/5: providing a tax break to the elderly.