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Senior Homestead Exemption Unfair

At least Canton City Council member Bill Bryan thinks as much. At tonight's meeting, he plans to propose an elimination of the senior citizen property tax exemption.

A council member who plans tonight to bring up the idea of eliminating the homestead exemption for senior citizens said that his proposal is what’s “fair” for other residents in .

“This is just a really small, specific group of people given a special deal that arguably needs it less than a lot of other people,” Bill Bryan said.

The councilman said he’s met younger residents who would love to be on fixed incomes as many senior citizens are.

“They don’t know if they’ll have income the next month,” Bryan said.

How do you feel about Canton's senior homestead exemption? Let us know in the comment box below.

However, Council member Glen Cummins said that many senior citizens are on very fixed and low incomes.

“They got (their homes) paid off, and all of a sudden you decide to start taxing them,” Cummins said. “It could have a very serious impact on whether or not they can buy medications because their incomes are severely limited.”

In Canton, the first $112,000 of assessed value is exempt, and assessed value is 40 percent of the property’s appraisal. That means that senior citizens who own homes up to $280,000 in value pay no property taxes, Bryan said.

For those with homes valued at more than $280,000, the same formula applies. A senior citizen with a home appraised at $300,000 would pay 0.0068 mills on $20,000 of value times 40 percent, he said. The average value of an exempted house in Canton is $170,000, which would put property taxes at $450 a year.

Bryan said he’s heard numerous senior citizens say they based their decisions to move to Canton on the senior homestead exemption.

“I’ve had people living in $200,000, $300,000 and $400,000 homes tell me they wouldn’t have bought their homes if they had known they had to pay property taxes in the city of Canton,” Bryan said. “I’m just trying to do what’s right by everybody. My job is to represent all of the taxpayers, not just a very specific group.”

The councilman said he’s received seven to eight emails opposing his proposal.

“They’re saying things like, ‘You’re going to drive the seniors away from buying in Canton. We’re going to sell our house and move away,’ ” he said.

According to the proposal, property taxes fund city services such as and protection; parks and recreation; for roads, bridges and sidewalks; the and Community Center; and special events. Residents exempted from property taxes get those services for free, Bryan said.

“I can’t believe everybody’s making such a huge fuss about that,” Bryan said. “They’ve gotten services for free all this time. No one has produced any documentation or paperwork telling me they have gotten this deal. You know, we’ll give you free fire and police forever. It’s an unfair situation.”

Cummins said he likely will second a motion should Bryan make one to give him the ability to begin a discussion.

“I don’t know what his intent is, whether his intent is to discuss it or to vote on it,” Cummins said.

Cummins said that, based on the information he has, his vote at this point would be against the proposal.

“He’s coming arbitrarily out with a statement with no information that I’m aware of with how many people it would impact or how it would impact the community,” Cummins said. “Before I’d even want to look at it, you need to have thorough documented facts. As it now stands, it’s just a wild thrown out idea.”

Council member Hooky Huffman said he doesn’t think the proposal will go anywhere in its current form.

“It was very blunt, very cut and dry,” Huffman said. “He just wanted to eliminate it, period. I just don’t think a total elimination will gain any ground at all. Now, if you want to alter it somewhat like Social Security where it’s graduated up and grandfathers in (those currently exempted) or reducing the exemption amount, he could do something that might strike some interest in some of the council members.”

Bryan said he also plans to introduce a proposal that would reduce the city’s to mirror  rates, which are approximately $20 less than the city’s.

Chris Graves January 30, 2012 at 09:38 PM
I agree with Kristen about running the city efficiently. But to suggest merging the city with the county, well that will never happen. Canton has been the county seat since 1834 and that title holds a lot of weight politically with the state. No, what the citizenry needs to do is to take a closer look at the people in office. They voted them in and if they don't like what they are doing, vote them OUT. Demand an immediate freeze on pay raises and any hiring of nonessential city employees. The problem with the city council is they are doing business as usual. They need to wake up to reality that we are living in tough times and they need to make better decisions with the cities finances. Pray for our leaders that they will make the right decisions.
Georgette T January 30, 2012 at 10:17 PM
just got a new round of commissioners voted in, kept some who do not have great success records at running a business. people need to research the candidates and find out via public record what type of business acumen they have. In the meantime, there are opportunities to join volunteer committees that present and recommend actions based upon fact finding, work with the local media, to get the word out. A good place to start is with someone like Ginger Gerard who has several advisory groups such as promotion, design, and several others. Also there is the non partisan Board of Ethics and other council that you can voice your concerns to. Work within the system to bring constructive change. Just say'n.
Georgette T January 30, 2012 at 10:41 PM
the tax exemption is for school taxes only..not the portion that contribute to fire, police ,etc. the devil is in the details people.
Bill Bryan January 31, 2012 at 12:33 AM
There is a common misconception that City of Canton property taxes are somehow related to Cherokee County School Taxes and Cherokee County property taxes. They are not. I am in no way suggesting that seniors (those 62+) should be required to pay county school taxes. That exemption is a good idea and I am in complete agreement with your position on that subject. City of Canton taxes are used only to pay for the day to day municipal services such as Police & Fire Protection, Streets, Bridges, Sidewalks, Streetlights, Parks, Curbside Debris Removal, Special Events & Festivals, Etc. Ironically, the seniors who cannot afford to own a home DO pay property taxes via rent. A strong argument could be made that the seniors who need a break the most; those who rent, live in assisted living, or nursing homes, are NOT exempt, while those with $200,000 & $300,000 homes get a free ride. There is no such thing as "those who paid into the system" for the ongoing services I mention here that we all use or benefit from. I have a great respect for seniors and their well earned retirements. However, homeownership does come with certain ongoing responsibilities that have to be paid for.
Georgette T January 31, 2012 at 03:08 AM
be curious to see any demos that are collected by Patch as I doubt that most homeowners with homes valued above 200K necessarily read this blog. As you are not privvy to most people's bank accounts it is naive to think especially based upon the foreclosure rate in the county that almost anyone can afford to not look forward to the exemption at 62, and not everyone takes it at that time.
Kristen Jones January 31, 2012 at 03:15 AM
Well, we will see if a merge with the county is an option. This is happening in other cities in GA and across the country. We should get rid of the overlapping gov. and run gov. more efficiantly. This dialog is great and hope we can keep it going. There is no way to say for certain a merge is or is not in Canton's best interest until we have the facts.
Chris Graves January 31, 2012 at 03:48 AM
I don't think the sky is falling on Canton, not yet. I know turning over power is a bad thing. All you need to look at, is what us to be Milton county. Alpharetta, Roswell and Sandy Springs, they wish they hadn't merged with Fulton. Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know. Agree, dialog is good.
Bill Bryan January 31, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Maybe the sky is not falling yet but it might be time to start looking up there! :) While city revenues continue to shrink (down 22.5% last year), the number of households paying zero or very little city tax is rapidly growing (up 8% so far this year). One does not have to be an economic expert to see that to continue down this path will ultimately result in the financial collapse of the city. If this exemption is truly what the majority currently wants, then why not allow ALL citizens to affirm this by a vote in the general election in November? Why does your city council refuse to allow the citizens to decide this vital issue?
Bill Bryan January 31, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Karen, the impact is very significant. Last year 1,231 households paid either no property tax or in some cases paid a disproportionately small amount. Three years ago that figure was 1,057, an increase of 174 households in three years. Already this year an additional 102 households have applied for this exemption bringing the total to 1,332 so far this year! Three years ago the cost to the taxpayers for this was $518,052. Last year the cost to the taxpayers was $601,043. While these cost figures were rising, Canton’s overall property tax revenues were falling by almost a half million ; $477,000. In fy2010 total revenues were down by 22.5%. Do you see where this is going? Who’s going to pay for the services we all receive? With the current trends the question is not if but when will it collapse? Five of the seven households headed by your elected officials who govern the city, are on the exemption program. The combined appraisals of those five households is $1,204,300. A grand total of $118 in property taxes are paid by all five households together. If the city was dependent on your elected officials to pay their fair share it would already have collapsed.
Bill Bryan January 31, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Eric if this was a non-existent problem I would not be wasting time on it. Please read my recent posts below.
Christy January 31, 2012 at 04:10 PM
I agree with Bill Bryan 100%. The taxes have nothing to do with school taxes, and seniors should be exempt on those. Secondly, why not take a vote on it? Why should it be up to young families who are strugging in this current economy to even put food on the table to support those with incomes/ homes values way above the value of ours. It isn't fair. Also, we are all on a "fixed income" in this job market. We haven't seen a raise in over 6 years, and some of our incomes have been cut in order to save jobs. In these times, no one can just go out and get a higher paying job overnight. At this same time, the cost of living is going up and up for us too. Our health insurance is more expensive than ever, and we too have prescriptions to pay, etc. If you live in one of these non-exempt homes, I believe the average of $450 a year is not too much to ask for fire, police, street sweeping, etc. I say take it to the people for a vote, and let the people decide.
Georgette T January 31, 2012 at 04:29 PM
I may have an exemption on school taxes but I do pay over $600 in property tax for a home devalued under 170k, so I am not sure what y'all think we are getting a free ride on. Plus I have to pay for my own health insurance which takes a big chunk out of my fixed income..lets not paint everything with a broad stroke here folks. Bottom line is we all have challenges as to how we live with less.
Christy January 31, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Most of us w/ jobs pay for our health insurance any more too. The days of it being paid for by the employer are long gone. We are paying for that rising cost along with raising a family, paying taxes and everything else. I'm not painting anything with a broad stroke, but it's a viable option to help the city turn things around. Why not take it for a vote? Do you live in the canton city limits? Are those city taxes you are paying ,or county taxes? I don't believe the county has the same exemption. Just wondering. I first was against this proposal too, until I started to research and gather information on it. I wouldnt' want to impose new taxes on anyone. I think most facets of the government mispsend our money anyway. Once I listened to the meetings, read the minutes, and checked the facts, it seemed outrageous to me that young struggling families would have to provide these services for seniors with homes above $280K who actually have plenty of money. There will be some who don't, but some who do. And the fact that those seniors who live in assisted living and or rent have to pay is really out of whack. It seems like bad politics to me, some of those who could really use the benefit don't get it, and some of those who don't need it, get it. Maybe the whole thing should be revamped. Either way, something must be done. I shouldn't continue to pay $90 or more a month for water. It isn't fair when most people outside the city limits are paying half that.
Chris Graves January 31, 2012 at 05:47 PM
I do believe it came to a vote at the last council meeting and was defeated 5-1. I trust the board to do what is necessary when the time is right. It reminds me of the time I sat in my reps. office at the capital and tried to convince him to take the tax off of food. He explained how the state depended on that tax and couldn't do without it. Long story short, within the next year Gov. Zell Miller did away with that tax and to this day we still don't pay tax on food. So to all the city and county elected officals, as Clint Eastwood said in Outlaw Josey Wales, " Don't piss on me and tell me it's raining. "
Georgette T January 31, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Christy, I live in an unincorporated part of the county so there . I created my own business with income that varies from month to month,which is 1/5th of what I use to make working for a multinational company that finds easy ways to rid themselves of employees who are in their 50's and I was without any real income for over 7 years and paying almost $2k in property tax, and an HSA health account and a roof over my head. The board did its homework. I moved here there were people in$500k homes with almost no furniture- that is pretty much how we got into part of this mess-& the banks and some of the dubious characters that most of Cherokee County voted into office because they sounded good, and in the end are only out for themselves. Why don't you get pissed off about those folks who defaulted on huge loans, and have still managed to pay $700,000 cash for a new home. or introduce legislation that would benefit their side businesses.how do you think that happens? Or people who moved here without paying their taxes in their former states, and fail to do so here yet whine and complain when they still contribute nothing to the bottom line in the name of .."for the people". There are alot of sheep in wolves clothing out there who are ripping all of us off, and it is not the majority of seniors. Go find a real issue to fight for, vote out those you think are acting in your best interests(and really are not) and/or get involved.
Christy January 31, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Chris, the council voted on it, not the people! Bill Bryan wants to take it to a vote for the people. Georgette, when you find it necessary to insult me over a dialogue... "Go find a real issue... and/or get involved." as you stated above, we are done speaking. Just because we have a difference in opinion, doesn't make yours invalid, but it certainly doesn't make mine invalid, or make me uninvolved, and since you live outside of the city of canton limits, you really don't have a say in a possible vote. Best of luck to you with your business, and I hope things get better for you, because that is the kind of person I am. :) I volunteer, I give back, and I speak my mind and stand up for what I think is right. Even if you don't agree with me, you have to respect that. And if you can't, that's not my problem.
Georgette T January 31, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Christy,not meant as an insult and should not be taken that way..I may live outside the city limits but I still paid many of the same taxes so to that extent I was paying for many services I wasn't getting. And my business is doing quite well, thank you for your kind thought, so it was a generalization not necessarily directed at you.I volunteer on local and county committees because it is important to make a difference, that is my choice too. What riles me the most is when something like the Aquatic center was voted on several years ago and passed, and now we have people moving into the county who disagree with it and want it not to happen. There are enough opinions here to make one dizzy. Perhaps the Senior issue should be a grandfathered one, and the voters could make a decision for residents not currently eligible. Right now the point is moot.
Chris Graves January 31, 2012 at 07:35 PM
The people voted for the council to make decisions just like the one we're talking about. The voters are not usually in the know overall. But, I would take a guess and say they would leave the exemption alone. I would like to vote for school superintendent but guess what, the "voters" gave my right away to the school board just a few years ago. There was a time in history where the school superintendent for a county was so important that it rivalled the county commissioner and you would have had war taking that vote away from the people. Times change but one thing is for sure, until all the politicians agree we'll always have debate.
Georgette T January 31, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Good points,Chris. I was sorry to have missed last night's meeting at Holly Springs Admin building regarding the partisan "blue ribbon cmte" on the proposed 1 man/1 vote another contentious issue, which as I was told by some who attended was fairly civil until all "hell broke loose and in the end, they put forth four proposals on county commission and about seven on eight on school board. The more things change...
Christy January 31, 2012 at 08:09 PM
I didn't vote for most of the city council that is currently in office, and they surely don't represent my demographic, which makes up 46% of the population of Canton. They may be the ones elected, but they certainly don't have my family's best interest at heart, so when 1 of them is brave enough to speak out against the rest, and point out that the current set up is failing us, and suggest allowing the voters to vote on this issue, I have to agree with him. You may be right that the exemption would be left alone, but if that's the case, what are they so afraid of, that they, themselves, may actually have to pay for the services they are using? I agree with you about superintendent. I didn't like that going away either. Debate is good. It's how ideas get exchanged, and people learn things, and see different points of view.
Bill Bryan January 31, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Because five of the seven city councilmen personally reap an annual combined total of $3,159 in financial benefits from this exemption, they are not in a position to make an objective decision. If this exemption is truly what the majority of citizens currently wants, then why not allow ALL citizens to affirm this by a vote in the general election in November? Why does your city council refuse to allow the citizens to decide this vital issue?
Chris Graves January 31, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Bill, you may be totally right with all the numbers. The reality is, you have to play the hand that is delt. At this time you hold a pair of deuces and they hold a full house. What can you do? Keep up the good work and remember, things change. And maybe the economy will change. Maybe the sunday sales of alcohol will help. By the way why have we not heard any complaining from the bootleggers. :)
Bill Bryan February 01, 2012 at 12:11 PM
Good points Chris. Thanks. Might have to "borrow" your bootlegger line!
carl wellborn February 02, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Why are property taxes for police, fire, etc. based on the value of the home? If your house is worth five times more than your next door neighbor, do you get five times more police, fire, coverage? Based on Bill Bryan's argument people with lower valued homes get a free ride. Why does he not propose a flat tax for every home? Let's get rid of all free rides, since he believes in 100% fairness. Carl W.
Chris Graves February 02, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Great point Carl. I think it's all about easing the tax burden on the less wealthy than anything else. Which I don't totally disagree with. I think there is some common ground. We all want to pay our fair share but no more. Perhaps added tax for non-homestead homes, second, third etc... These are rentals and should be looked at as businesses. Then again, these are already paying extra for non-homestead status. Maybe a small "administration" fee that everybody pays. Whatever it is, it should be fair. I wish insurance for my home was based on a flat system, I would pay half the premium.
VIRGINIA PERROD January 06, 2013 at 04:12 AM
I AGREE WHOLEHEARTEDLY AS WE ARE CONSIDERING CHEROKEE COUNTY TO RETIRE IN. IF THIS CHANGES.....GOODBYE CHEROKEE. I'LL LOOK ELSEWHERE. V.P., MIAMI, FL
Sue Boughton May 10, 2013 at 08:04 PM
Very bad idea -- it definitely would impact the real estate market because most of the "active adults" that are interested in moving to Cherokee County are moving here because of this exemption. The surrounding counties have SR exemptions -- we would lose new residents to them and Cherokee's economy would suffer. Also I think you have a misguided view of the financial position of most seniors (who on average have triple the medical costs of younger people) and just how much that "fixed income" might be!!
Bill Bryan May 11, 2013 at 01:23 AM
Cherokee County does not have a senior property tax exempption. The City of Canton does have a senior property tax exemption. Seniors in both the county and city are exempt from school taxes. The Canton senior exemption can only be removed by referemdum and that will likely never happen.
Clay Campbell May 11, 2013 at 01:32 PM
Unless you have something to do with it. Bryan= bad for seniors.
Bill Bryan May 12, 2013 at 01:44 AM
"Clay" you crack me up. :) What a funny guy!

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