Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Equalized HOST and value freeze bills sent to Governor

Two bills supported by most state legislators representing DeKalb County were passed by both houses of the Georgia General Assembly and have been sent to Gov. Deal’s desk for his consideration.

House Bill 215 provides for an “equalized” homestead option sales tax (HOST) and an additional 1 percent sales tax in DeKalb County if approved by voters. The proceeds from the new tax would go toward infrastructure improvements in DeKalb County. The existing HOST credit would be modified to provide some more property tax relief. The equalized HOST could save Decatur residents about $20 a year compared to their last DeKalb County tax bill. HB 215 passed the state Senate unanimously, but received 32 nay votes in the House from fiscally conservative Republicans who regarded the measure as a tax increase.

HB 596 provides for an extension of the property assessment freeze in DeKalb County until 2021. The freeze is actually an exemption that offsets increases in property values for homeowners countywide. For Decatur residents, the freeze can help prevent increases in your DeKalb County tax bill but not your City of Decatur tax bill. HB 596 passed by a wider margin than HB 215. There were only four dissenting votes, which were cast by Democrats in the Senate including Sen. Gloria Butler of Stone Mountain and Sen. Steve Henson of Tucker.

Meanwhile, three bills to expand property tax relief for Decatur homeowners died in the state House before the session ended. HB 673 would have increased the existing GH1 basic homestead exemption by exempting $25,000 in assessed value rather than the current $20,000, which would have saved approximately $60 on resident homeowners’ tax bills when compared to current bills assuming no change in property value or in the millage rates. HB 670 would have added a new “GH3” exemption for homeowners over 62 with household income under $50,000 that would have saved them about $175 per year. Section 2A of HB 672 would have would have increased the existing GH2 (age 65) exemption amount of $1,000 to $10,000, which would be a savings of an additional $100 per eligible taxpayer.

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