At its regular March meeting Monday night, the Dade County Board of Education voted unanimously to rescind its resolution to put the matter of amending Dade's so-called 65/5 school tax exemption to referendum. But board members made it clear they were only doing so because they had been betrayed by their newly-elected young state representative--not that far from schooldays himself--who had first championed and then dumped them.
"So there will be no change to 65/5 as a result of it not being represented properly," restated board member Daniel Case when Superintendent Jan Harris brought up the matter of rescission after Moore's decision not to support the board's 65/5 request. "I just want to make sure that everyone understands that's why--no other reason than it wasn't represented the way the board asked for it be represented."
Colton Moore, 25, had campaigned for the District 1 statehouse seat he won in November on reforming 65/5, which he described as the most extreme property tax break for elders in Georgia. Since 2005, Dade has allowed residents 65 and over to exempt their homes of whatever value, plus five acres of land, from the school tax, which makes up the bulk of the typical county tax bill. Critics of 65/5 say it puts the burden of supporting the schools on younger, poorer homeowners while exempting those who can best afford the tax.
Moore's proposal before the election was to place a residency restriction on the exemption. After meeting with board members, he agreed to add their request of capping the credit at $150,000 to the proposed changes. And at a special called meeting on Feb. 4, the school board approved a resolution asking for a referendum on changes along those lines. Under the terms proposed by the board and Moore, those who had already claimed the exemption would be allowed to keep it, but new applicants would only be allowed to exempt the five acres and the first $150,000 of home value, and would be required to have lived in Dade for five years before applying.
In any case, the board's resolution was a request for a referendum, to have Rep. Moore sponsor legislation that would put changes along those lines to the voters in a 2020 ballot question.
But a social media campaign by opponents of change quickly ensued, and Moore withdrew his support for the board's proposal at the first sign of resistance. At a town-hall-style meeting on Feb. 24 Moore hosted--and to which a reliable source reported he rather pointedly did not invite school board members--he said he would drop the exemption cap and push forward only his proposed residency requirement.
Now that, too, seems to have died in Atlanta, with young Moore telling The Chattanooga Times Free Press that veteran State Sen. Jeff Mullis had sabotaged his efforts, and Sen. Mullis in turn blaming the younger man's failure on his own inexperience and refusal to listen to others.
In any case, any change to 65/5 is dead for now, and school board members without calling out Moore made it clear they're not happy with their fickle friend. "I'm very saddened from the lack of respect that the board of education got in this matter," said board member Johnny Warren. The school board is a legal elected taxing agency, he said, and all it had asked for was the chance to put its proposed changes before the voters.
"I think there was very little respect given to the board of education," said Warren.
In other business, the board after an executive, or closed-door session, approved the personnel changes specified in the attached release. The system issued the correction that Ronnie Shelton was retiring from Davis School, not Dade Middle.