Thursday, March 14, 2013

Last chance to apply for 2013 homestead exemption

If you are filing for a new homestead exemption in the City of Decatur for 2013, we can accept your application as late as April 1 by law.  However, we encourage all eligible homeowners to apply for any new exemptions no later than tomorrow, Mar. 15, to ensure your exemption appears on your 1st installment tax bill which will be mailed out April 1.

If you previously applied for a homestead exemption with the City of Decatur, you do not need to re-apply with us.  If you filed for an exemption with DeKalb, you must also apply with Decatur.  You must also apply if you qualify for a new exemption based on age or income.

Further information on local homestead exemptions can be found at

Eligible residents can apply for the basic homestead exemption on our website here.  For exemptions based on age or income, please come to City Hall at 509 North McDonough Street.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Time runs out for tax and fee bill in 2013

Legislators were unable to work out their differences in time for HB 159 to receive a House vote and consideration in the Senate for 2013.  

The Georgia Municipal Association, which opposed the bill, said the legislation would "have stifled the ability of city governments to work on behalf of their citizens," but pledged to continue working with Rep. Harrell, the bill's author.

GMA also noted that "a bi-partisan group of House members expressed concerns that this bill would reduce the efficiency many cities and counties use in billing for ad valorem and property-related fees and assessments."

Technically, the bill is still "alive" and could be reintroduced for a floor vote in 2014 without having to go through committee mark-up.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tax and fee bill tabled in House of Representatives

House Bill 159, which would require separate bills for local property taxes and and local fees, has been at least temporarily withdrawn, or tabled, in the Georgia House of Representatives.

The clerk's office of the House of Representatives told me that the tabling took place after a lengthy floor debate.  Presumably, disagreements over the bill suggested to the sponsors that there was not enough support for the measure as currently written to pass a floor vote at this time.  Due to the legislative calendar, representatives would have to work out their final differences for a vote today in order for the state senate to consider the measure this year.  If they cannot reach an agreement today, the bill can be taken up again next year.

As I've pointed out before, one of the unintended consequences of this bill would be that Decatur residents would receive five separate tax and fee bills from the city and county annually.  The admininistrative costs of billing would increase and collection rates for stormwater drainage and sanitation services would decline.

Jimmy Orr, a member of the Gwinnett County Stormwater Authority, has laid out a thoughtful critique of HB 159 in a letter to the editor of the Gwinnett Daily Post that's worth a read.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

City promotes homestead exemptions

In an effort to help remind homeowners about homestead exemptions based on age or income offered by the City of Decatur, the Revenue Division has sent out this postcard to about 650 residents who we think may be eligible to apply:

If you have previously applied for a homestead exemption, you do not need to re-apply. If you filed for a homestead exemption with DeKalb County, you must also apply with the City of Decatur. You must also apply if you now qualify for an exemption based on age or income for which you did not previously qualify. 

If you reside at the property you own, you may apply for the general homestead exemption online. Applicants for all other exemptions must apply in person at Decatur City Hall, 509 N. McDonough St., Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.  Please come in as soon as possible.

More information is available at

Friday, March 1, 2013

5 reasons to file a return of property

DeKalb and Decatur residents will receive assessment notices from DeKalb County in May.  If you disagree with your value, you can begin your appeal at that time.  Or you can get ahead of the game by filing a return of your property with DeKalb County prior to April 1.

Filing an annual return of business personal property is required.  Filing a return of real property such as your home or other real estate property is optional.  Along with the reasons I mentioned the other day, several additional purposes are served by filing a return before April 1:
  • To request a review of the appraised value of your real estate property
  • To report additions, improvements, or removal buildings or structures on your real property
  • To report that your business has closed or that you've begun a new business
  • To report new personal property such as business equipment
  • To report the depreciation of your property's value
I encourage property owners who fall into these categories to consider filing a return.  It may help reduce lag time in the final determination of your taxable value for 2013.

The bullet points above are adapted from suggestions made by Hall County tax assessors office to their taxpayers.  Return and appeal procedures are basically the same statewide.