continued from page stead Exemption ….
continued from page
stead Exemption Act voted on in a referendum.
The Coalition is led by a small core group of citizens – Amie Vassey, Angel Hicks-Gilreath, Greg Palmer, KC Seabury, Brian Colson, Linda Page, and others. “Earlier this year, the Tax Accessors Board tried to increase the values of Montgomery County residential homes by 60%, and, of course, we were incredibly alarmed by that. The citizens pulled together and created a group called the Informed Citizens Coalition, and we have actively been canvassing the county [and] compiling a Citizens Initiative Petition to file in Probate Court to freeze the assessed value of Montgomery County homes,” Vassey explained.
Vassey said the group has worked for two weeks to gain the signatures needed to file the petition. “We had 1,248 signatures turned in with the legislation,” she remarked. “We needed 20% of registered voters in the county [to sign] – which was roughly 1,140 [individuals]. So, we cleared the margin of error by 148 signatures, so it was a great effort by the community.”
When asked how it felt to be a part of this historic court filing, members agreed that they felt this was a unifying event for the community.
“This has been a great time to bring the community together, and to achieve something great and let our voices be heard,” Gilreath commented. “It has been a huge occasion, and we are thankful for the community and all the work and effort which they put into this. This is a Montgomery County citizen issue, and it was Montgomery County citizens seeking to solve it, and I think that is the most important thing.”
Palmer added, “It’s really been incredible how the people have reached out to sign these petitions – they call all of us night and day wanting to sign and pass this legislation for us.”
“It truly is a historic moment for Montgomery County – [it’s] the first time ever in Montgomery County, Georgia, that a Citizens Initiative Petition has been filed for a ballot measure,” Vassey emphasized.
The over 100-page document was officially filed in the Montgomery County Probate Court around 10:45 a.m. on Monday morning, as citizens gathered in the court’s office to watch the transaction. The court officials say that they will now begin to verify through election software and data that the signees of the document are registered Montgomery County voters. From there, they will utilize the guidance of the county attorney to continue to move forward. Commission Response
Montgomery County Commissioner Chad Kenney spoke on the citizens’ filing of the petition. “This is not a fix,” he stressed. “I understand the issue of property taxes, but its revenue growth from business entering the county that will help ease the tax issue – not this Act.”
Kenney emphasized the need for more business – whether it be retail or industry – within the county for the Act to be enacted without causing a continual raise in the millage rate. He shared that he had extensively researched the possibility of enacting a homestead exemption within the County, but found several issues with the legislation. “As far as the Homestead Exemption goes, it will make an inequity between taxpayers, meaning you could be paying more than your neighbor, and your neighbor could be paying more than you. It will create an inequity amongst taxpayers, and that is my biggest problem with the it,” he remarked.
He also referenced problems which the 36 counties within Georgia which have a Floating Homestead Exemption in place for their county face. “Depending on the language of the law, some assessment freezes cause the assessment to be higher than it would without the freeze, because property value was locked in when inflation or the housing market was high,” he explained. “Yet, some of the freezes have language that state the freeze is only applicable if the assessment value is higher than the frozen value. There’s a lot of variances.”
Kenney continued to share that the Act also would not bear immediate benefits, as he said it could be years before taxpayers see any change in their taxes. “This legislation won’t go into effect until 2025, so citizens won’t see the benefit until several years down the road. Hopefully, by then, interest rates and the housing market prices will have gone down.”
“In the future, it’s going to be your kids dealing with this issue and legislation,” he concluded. History of Legislation
The Montgomery County Commission first began reviewing the Floating Homestead Act upon the request of the citizens several months ago. The group attended an informative training on the legislation in Cobb County, where they heard perspective from leaders dealing with the Act in that area, but shared that they were not ready to put the Floating Homestead Exemption on the ballot until they had more information.
During the initial discussion, commissioners shared their concern that allowing this floating tax exemption would cause large land tract owners, such as farmers and business owners, to have a greater tax burden that would deter them from settling in the county — even with protection that came from prior legislation.
The matter was discussed numerous times during Commission work sessions, including one in which the citizens asked for the Commission to form a committee of 2 Commissioners, 3 homeowners, 3 large land tract owners, and 2 business owners to discuss the legislation. Commissioners agreed, and the committee – composed of Commissioner Chad Kenney, Commissioner Ginger Morris, Zellene Robinson, David Moncus, Bob McKenzie, Sam Baker, Brian Myers, Charlie Robison, Al Johnson, and Matt Waller – have met twice to discuss the logistics of the Exemption.
During these meetings, Kenney presented indepth looks at the Floating Homestead Exemption, while citizens within the committee were able to ask questions about the legislation. Additional meetings of the committee had not been shared at the time of the petition filing.
Georgia legislation gives the Montgomery County Probate Court 10-60 days to record and process the petition before discussing the date of a special election for the referendum.