Dade County Schools Ask for a Referendum

Reported by: Bill Mitchell

Edited by: Ashley Henderson
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Updated: 10/31/2013 6:36 pm
DADE COUNTY, GA  (WDEF-TV) -- Senior citizens in Dade county don't pay school taxes.
What if that senior citizen owns a 300-thousand dollar home?
Those are the kind of questions Dade county residents will have to decide before they vote on a referendum in November of next year.
The school board is asking for a change in the law.

Since 2006, residents of Dade county Georgia over the age of 65, don't pay school taxes.
That's a great deal for them, since 75% of their annual tax bill goes to the schools.
But the school board has voted unanimously to ask state legislators to help them change that with a local referendum.

SHAWN TOBIN, SUPERINTENDENT, DADE COUNTY SCHOOLS "New people are moving in from different states, its it's Illinois, if its New York, and they are coming down to Dade county as a retirement community and they're moving into 4-5 hundred thousand dollar homes,and they are not paying any school property taxes."

Here's the way the proposed change would be set up: any senior who owns a home valued at less than 125-thousand dollars, with less than 5 acres of land, would see no change in their annual tax.
Homes valued at more than 125-thousand, would be taxed on 40% of that value, at the current millage rate.
Tobin says the number of exempted homes is growing.

SHAWN TOBIN, SUPT. "Currently there's, once again, it jumped by a thousand within a span of 7 years,"

County executive Ted Rumley says he thinks the tax should be based on total household income, and not the value of the property.
He says many residents, even in nice homes, are on fixed incomes and struggling to buy food and medicine.

TED RUMLEY, COUNTY EXECUTIVE "I don't think, I think, if it comes back before the vote...voters, the way it is far as the 125-thousand..I don't really think it will pass."

Ann Brown hopes it does pass. She has a grandchild in the public schools there.

ANN BROWN, DADE COUNTY RESIDENT "I think its just a bad situation when taxpayers all property owners don't pay their share of school taxes."

There are about 2000 students in Dade county, down 42 from last year. That cost the district some 240-thousand dollars in state funding.
Tobin says the district has already reduced school days from 180 to 168, and has cut numerous programs, including driver's education.

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