Decatur Schools Gets Legislative Support For Senior Tax Exemption – and Other Notable CSD News

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A couple of interesting, newsworthy bulleted items included on the agenda for the November 10th Decatur School Board Meeting

43 thoughts on “Decatur Schools Gets Legislative Support For Senior Tax Exemption – and Other Notable CSD News”

  1. So, let me get this straight. Some of the most fortunate among us would shift their entire school tax burden to others, including the least wealthy, based on age? I thought this city was left-leaning.

    1. In order to receive an exemption for which one is qualified, one must apply. It isn’t automatic. So, anyone who qualifies, but prefers not to be exempt, can continue to pay the school tax by simply not applying for the exemption.

  2. Though you have a point, I think part of the intent is to keep those without kids, seniors, from being replaced by those with kids. So you could say they are trying to minimize the increasing burden on schools and shifting more of the burden of paying for them to those who use them. Since recent studies have shown that having any more than one child per household in CSD is revenue negative, keeping the childless in Decatur could, maybe, reduce the tax burden overall.

    1. It’s not just seniors who do not have kids. And what’s to stop someone from moving to Decatur, putting their home in their parent’s name in order to avoid taxes, but still put their kids in Decatur’s schools?

    2. What is to prevent grandchildren or renters residing at a tax-free home from attending CSD? Decatur’s plan is flawed. The age is too low, income and home values are irrelevant, I’m assuming the tax redistribution has not been fully studied (but I have no idea). How much will school taxes go up for those under 65?

      I might agree with a tax break similar to the homestead, a tiered percentage perhaps up to 50%, but schools are everyone’s responsibility. Everyone benefits and everyone should have a degree of buy-in. My understanding is that this is a 100% tax waiver. Is this correct? Would the Mayor who brought this through the commission without a vote by the general public, for instance, receive this tax benefit? Please correct me if any of this is wrong, I am simply trying to better understand the situation.

        1. King – this person would not be able to do anything about the listed “shenanigans” because they would all be perfectly legal! All of this is allowable under what the City has proposed. Since you refer to them as shenanigans you must feel that such situations would be unfair and should not be allowable…

          It sets up a situation similar to what we have with certain not-for-profit educational institutions who own property that is 100% tax exempt, and then rent those properties out to persons with children. There are no shenanigans – it is perfectly legal.

          1. If you are an elderly person who has already raised children and and paid your taxes for decades and decades and circumstances are such that you now have to raise your grandchildren while on a fixed income, I still think you should get a tax break.

            If I live in Decatur until I am 65 I will have been paying property taxes for 40 years. Over half those years I will not have had a child in CSD. I also live in a 4BR house…if I move out after my kids are done with CSD it will most likely be a family with young kids that moves in.

            With luck we will all reach retirement age eventually and benefit from the tax break.

            1. “If you are an elderly person who has already raised children and and paid your taxes for decades and decades and circumstances are such that you now have to raise your grandchildren while on a fixed income . . .”

              Is there a way to tell that this is the case–that they “have” to raise their grandchildren?

              My house isn’t big enough to move my parents in, but if I had one of those $700K+, 4,000 sq ft houses, I would seriously consider doing so (maybe put them in one of those above garage apartments) and putting them on the deed to avoid paying those taxes.

  3. “What is to prevent grandchildren or renters residing at a tax-free home from attending CSD?”
    The former is possible, but non-resident landlords don’t usually qualify for any exemptions.

    “How much will school taxes go up for those under 65?”

    What if the rate stays the same or drops?

    1. -Renters can reside at a home containing resident landlords.

      -What if’s are not necessary here. The answer is very knowable. It is simple math and a little forecasting. The city and school board could provide us with a number… where is it?

      1. My “what if” was actually not rhetorical. Would you accept this plan if the rates were the same or lower? Just curious.

        1. I might be able to tolerate it. But I do think a discount – let’s say 50% – is more appropriate than a 100% waiver, and I do think both home value and income should be considered. It is, in fact, the American way for every property owner to pay school taxes (except in Decatur)? And I do think the many, many holes should be plugged.

          1. There are seniors living in Decatur for years who can no longer afford to live here due to the high taxes. That is who this exemption is intended for. They have been paying school taxes for years. They deserve to receive this exemption. In Dekalb County the age for exemption is 70 for people whose gross income is under 80 K per year. I am one of those people and it is helping me keep up with expenses on a fixed income.

            1. What if the 65 year old just moved to decatur and lives in a million dollar house? Does this person deserve a tax break?

              1. They won’t be getting a break on the rest of their tax bill, will still have to help pay for the bond for which they had no vote, and could always decide not to apply for the exemption.

                1. But the question is whether that person “deserves” a tax break. They didn’t pay into the system for decades. They need no incentive to stay in their home and keep school children out. They may not have been here to vote for the bond but they had a chance to decide how they felt about it when they elected to live here.
                  There may be some elderly in COD who choose to leave merely because they cannot afford the school tax. But some leave because they can no longer live by themselves and move in with children. Some leave to be closer to grandchildren. Some leave their homes because they’d rather live in a condo or an assisted living facility. A tax break does nothing for any of those scenarios.
                  Not all seniors are living in tiny houses and in destitute conditions. I spoke to a contractor last year who said many of their clients are empty nesters doing high end renovations. These are not people who need a tax break.
                  By pushing more of the tax burden to those under 65, you migh improve diversity of age and you might put up a barrier to children moving in, but you just make it even harder for everyone else to afford to live here and all other types of diversity will likely suffer.

    2. “… renters residing at a tax free home…”

      Property tax exemptions are offered on the primary resident. Most landlords are absentee and would not be able to legally claim the exemption.

      1. BTW, I know people in CSD who are 65+ and have children in elementary school. I am sure this number increases with Middle and High School. And I may one day be one of those people, and it is absurd to think I should not pay a school tax.

        To Oaky’s point, “most landlords” is not all. And, of course, the property could contain an in-law suite or a carriage house/garage apartment. These are common in Decatur.

        On the reverse, folks could also have Grandma move in, and put her on the deed. (Grampa too!)

        I am just saying, this thing has holes all over it on the “benefit to schools” side. I’m sure someone will find a couple more holes that I haven’t thought of. Has the city considered any of this? I haven’t seen it… public policy deserves a little more consideration than what has been put forth by our elected officials. Maybe they need a staff of qualified analysts. Maybe our two new commissioners will bring some reason to this…

        1. I think the benefits are to the community, not the schools, although the schools may benefit if retirees decide to stay and not sell to families with young kids. I think the idea is to keep Decatur a city with a diversity of ages and households and not become just become a community of wealthier people with school age kids.

          I doubt many people would invite their parents to move in and just give up part ownership of the house to them just to avoid the school tax.

          1. So you are saying that the City of Decatur is discouraging certain demographics (families with school-aged children) from moving to the city because other people – those 65 and over – are more desirable?

            1. I can’t speak for Larkspur, but I’ll say it: yes, City of Decatur has an interest in discouraging certain demographics (families with school-aged children) from moving to the city in droves because the tax structure without the other people – more specifically families without children – cannot sustain the cost of the school system.

              Now if we give the 65+ crowd a pass on the school tax they obviously won’t be contributing to the school system, but they are less likely to sell their house. And the people who most want the house are families with school-aged children.

              I support the exemption without income restrictions. Just because I’m a responsible person saving for my retirement, doesn’t mean that the exemption won’t be a real budget-saver when I get to 65. The 20-years-from-now cost-of-living projections on those “will I have enough money to retire” algorithms are pretty jaw-dropping. And that’s assuming the taxes only rise at the rate of inflation. I’m concerned that the school tax in particular will rise exponentially in Decatur in the coming years. And I want to remain living in the community I spent 40 years contributing to. I can’t see how that could be perceived as unduly selfish.

              1. I think it is also worth mentioning that no one will get a pass on helping pay for the just-passed general obligation bond borrowing $75 million. No matter how old you are or long or short your residency in Decatur.

        2. Don’t put Grampa on the deed. He is frivolous man with odd habits. He will sell the house to carnies.

  4. disappointing that the RMS Boys Soccer team did not get a shout out too. They are the Metro Atlanta Soccer League Champions!

  5. Education is a social responsibility. It doesn’t matter whether you have,had or never had children. It is for
    the benefit of society as a whole. I can see income based tax relief for seniors, but when you say “I paid for my children” you are missing the entire point.

  6. Every time we incentivize a household with occupants 65+ to remain in the city we keep that house from turning over, often to families with children. If that family has two or more children, they’re likely costing the school system in excess of $10K, even after they’ve paid their taxes. The 65+ occupants likely would have cost CSD nothing.

    But I get it. We need to adhere rigidly to our perception of “fair share,” even if we have to screw ourselves to do it.

    1. “We need to adhere rigidly to our perception of “fair share,” even if we have to screw ourselves to do it.”

      That is exactly how I read it

  7. How will this work for partners of differing ages both on the deed? Half of school taxes waived until both partners are 65?

  8. If you are over 65, and own a home with an unoccupied bedroom, and are getting squeezed out by growing taxes, can’t you rent a room to create a little passive income stream?

    If the whole point of the exemption is to keep folks in town who would not be able to afford to otherwise, shouldn’t there be a (low) income pre-requisite for this? Maybe the new hire who will be confirming that kids really live within city limits can also check income tax returns.

    1. bigger point of this is to delay likely child-free houses from turning over to families with young children. If this actually happens, we may draw a good retiree crowd from the Highlands, Lake Clare and the like…

    2. LOL!!!! What room am I supposed to rent out? The kitchen? Most 65+ residents don’t live in megamansions, you know. In fact, the only Decatur resident over 65 I know who lives in a large house is there only because she had to move in with her offspring.

  9. Dekalb is only one of many counties offering school tax exemptions for seniors. So, Decatur is not a trend setter in this particular situation, Mac.

    1. But Cobb county, which does offer the exemption, was recently considering reversing the senior school tax exemption because of large budget shortfalls and the high cost of their exemption. Just as the population of school aged children is growing in Decatur, so is the population of seniors as baby boomers age. According to the city’s website, in 2013, around 12% of the city’s population would have qualified for a 65+ exemption. The next age bracket down (55-64) is another 12% of the population. We should be careful of what it will mean for the city and as well as current and future residents to have a total exemption for up to 20% of the city’s population in the next 10 years. Assuming that all seniors will leave the city without a tax exemption may be misguided. I personally know at least 3 seniors who brag that they make more money now in retirement than they did before retirement. I am sympathetic to the idea of trying to keep people in their homes and communities, but if this is really about keeping other people out, I hope it doesn’t go through.

  10. I teally havent read the proposal in Decatur, but it would help to include an income limit and perhaps increase the age when seniors can receive the exemption.

    1. J_T, who doesn’t know how to make that TM superscript thingamig, hopes he has a few more years left before the decaying process begins!

  11. I favor reducing tax burden on seniors, but I don’t understand why it is a school exemption versus a general exemption. The school system needs money; the city does not.

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