Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dorm tax exemption passes despite opposition from Athens

Tuesday’s referendum on guaranteeing property tax exemptions for privately-operated student housing and parking decks owned by the state university system passed overwhelmingly with 76 percent of electors voting yes.

The ballot measure passed by majorities in every county in Georgia except Athens-Clarke County where the University of Georgia is located. There, the number of opponents edged out supporters with 12,683 voting no and 12,120 voting yes. That result is somewhat unsurprising considering the long history of frustrations in Athens-Clarke over the amount of non-taxable property in the county. The university system owns so much tax-exempt property there that many non-exempt property owners feel unfairly burdened. There is also some skepticism there over what is perceived as a sweetheart deal: before the election the Athens Banner-Herald called the proposal, “Basically a tax break for private developers who build student housing and parking facilities.” On the flip side, if UGA weren’t in Athens, there wouldn’t be as many taxable businesses and homes there either.  Supporters also argue that the university system has too much debt to finance new developments on its own if the measure hadn't passed.

Dalton State College already has a plan in the works to take advantage of the referendum’s passage for a new student housing development. The Dalton Daily Citizen reports that there are developments at nine campuses planned statewide now that the referendum has passed.

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