Georgia Lawmakers Propose Property Tax Relief Measures Amid Rising Home Values


ATLANTA- Many Georgians are paying more in property taxes because their home prices have gone up. This election year, there is a push among state politicians to help.

The Senate Finance Committee of Georgia will hold a meeting on a bill on Monday. The bill would limit annual increases in a home’s assessed value for property tax reasons to 3%. The owner could keep the cap in place as long as they had a homestead exemption. In a vote in November, people would have to agree with the plan.

At the same time, Republican House Speaker Jon Burns of Newington wants to double the state’s property tax exemption. This would likely lower tax bills across the whole state by almost $100 million.

Not only is Georgia changing its laws because voters don’t like higher taxes, but many other states are too.

“Property taxes are likely to be the biggest tax issue in many states this year,” said Jared Walczak of the Tax Foundation. The Tax Foundation studies taxes and usually doesn’t like raises.

In Texas, voters agreed to a plan in November that would cut property taxes by $18 billion. To cut taxes by $100 million a year, both Kansas’ Democratic governor and its Republican-majority lawmakers want homes to get bigger tax breaks.

In a special session in November, Colorado lawmakers agreed to raise household savings and lower the assessment rate. Pennsylvania is cutting property taxes and helping seniors and people with disabilities pay their rent with money from the lottery.

Supporters of a cap on homes’ taxable value in Georgia say that it would stop school districts, cities, and counties from depending on rising prices to bring in more tax money. Republicans have long pushed local governments to lower tax rates to keep bills from going up. If they don’t, they have to put up ads calling it a tax rise.

Chuck Hufstetler, a Republican from Rome who chairs the Finance Committee and is the main author of Senate Bill 349, says that many school districts and cities are instead keeping the extra money they get from value-based taxes.

He told The Associated Press on Friday, “I’ve seen some increases where, in just a couple of years, their collections have gone up 40%.” “They are using the fact that the millage rate hasn’t changed to sneak in a tax hike.” And I believe that needs to be taken into account.”

In Georgia, property taxes were collected 41% more in 2022 than they were in 2018. During the same period, the total value of all property in the state went up by almost 39%. According to the Georgia Department of Revenue, those numbers include both old and new houses. So it’s not clear how much the values of current homes went up.

Many cities, towns, and school districts have used the extra money they got from property prices going up to raise wages and pay for costs that went up because of inflation. A cap of 3% could mean that tax rates would have to be raised instead. Property tax boundaries have been blamed for making it hard for local governments to do their jobs in places like California and Colorado.

The Association of County Commissions of Georgia says that at least 39 Georgia counties, 35 cities, and 27 school systems have already passed local rules that limit how much-estimated values can go up. A few of those limits only help people who are 65 or older.

Hufstetler’s bill has the support of Republican Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, who says it will stop “big surprise increases in home values.” At least one Democrat, Sen. Jason Esteves of Atlanta, backs it too.

Esteves said, “A key part of this bill is trying to make sure that people can stay in their homes.” He said that higher taxes are making people sell and move.

But leaders in the state House don’t want to put limits on home values across the whole state. They say that’s a decision that should be made by each community. Instead, they support Burns’ plan to raise the tax deduction.

“We want to keep local control,” Shaw Blackmon, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and a Republican from Kathleen, said Friday.

The caps could keep home prices lower for longer, so people who have lived in their homes for a long time might pay less in taxes than people who just moved in. In some Georgian towns with state caps, that’s already the case.

One homeowner in Columbus paid $7.79 in property taxes last year, while a neighbor who just moved into a similar house paid $3,236.19. Suzanne Widenhouse, top scorer for the Muscogee County Board of Assessors, told a House committee in October that figures. If not for Gov. Brian Kemp’s push for a $950 million property tax refund, that owner would have had to pay more.

More than $2 billion worth of property in Columbus is not taxed because of homestead exemptions, which stop the value from going up. Widenhouse said that changes the tax burden on people who own business and industrial land as well as people who rent.

“When you start putting limits on values, you make things less fair,” Widenhouse said.


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