Monday, March 21, 2016

City Commission levies school bond millage rate

The City Commission has adopted a new school bond property tax rate of 1.57 mills. The motion to approve the new rate, which will apply to 1st installment property tax bills for 2016, carried 5-0 during a public meeting tonight. The rate enables the first debt service payment toward the $75 million school bond issuance which was approved by voters on November 3 last year. The City of Decatur Schools will use the bond for capital improvements.

As Mayor Patti Garrett noted during the meeting, the 1.57 rate is lower than the average bond millage rate of 2.69 mills that was projected by the City of Decatur Schools when the bond was being debated last year.  The new millage rate results in a combined Decatur millage rate of 32.23 mills compared to 30.66 mills in 2015 and 33.5 mills in 2014.  City Manager Peggy Merriss said that the rates are subject to change in future tax installments.

Tax implications

The impact of the new tax rate will vary according to property value. Taxes for a resident with a $500,000 home will go up by about $400 for 2016.  Decatur bills in two installments; charges would the same each installment unless the school bond millage rate is increased or the property owner's value changes in 2016.  Prospective tax charges according to value are shown in the chart below:

According to 2015 digest data, the median home value in Decatur is $380,000. Homeowners with that value would experience a $300 tax increase for 2016 compared to 2015. (Zillow shows a higher median home value at $435,000 based on sales data, but local taxes are based on assessments made by DeKalb County in accordance with factors mandated by state law.) 

Exemption considerations

Seniors will not be exempt from the new school bond charges. School exemptions known as the GS-1 (age 62), S-1 (age 62), S-2 (age 80), and S-3 (age 70) do not apply toward the school bond charge. Property owners with the disabled veterans homestead exemption or a year’s support exemption will be partially exempt from school bond charges. Year’s support provides an exemption of taxes for one year upon the death of a spouse if approved by the DeKalb County probate court. About a dozen homeowners in Decatur meet these criteria.

New exemptions still pending

The City Commission and Board of Education have proposed expanded tax relief including an exemption from school taxes for homeowners over 65. These proposals have been approved by the Georgia General Assembly. If approved by voters in November, these expanded exemptions would go into effect in 2017. School bond charges will continue to apply regardless of any new exemptions.

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