HomeGeorgia NewsGeorgia Republicans lawmakers take aim at property tax hikes with new legislation

Georgia Republicans lawmakers take aim at property tax hikes with new legislation

Georgia – On Thursday, Georgia’s legislators wrapped up a package of legislation aimed at stopping property tax hikes, marking a major effort by Republicans to cut taxes in the 2024 session. This bundle of laws includes a change to the state constitution that people will have to vote on this November before it can take effect.

This strategy plans to keep yearly increases in the taxable value of homes tied to inflation rates, unless local governments or school boards decide to bypass this rule in early 2025. The head of the Senate Finance Committee, Chuck Hufstetler from Rome and a member of the Republican party, praised this as an incredible tax reform that will make taxes lower for homeowner now and in the future.

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The lawmakers that back the measure argue this move will stop local governments from sneakily raising taxes by letting them collect more money as the value of homes goes up, without decreasing tax rates. This is a big issue for many lawmakers, as they often hear complaints about climbing property tax bills. From 2018 to 2022, the money collected from property taxes in Georgia jumped by 41%, with the total value of assessed property also increasing by nearly 39%, including new constructions.

Both the House Resolution 1022 and House Bill 581 were approved by the House and Senate with more than enough votes. City and county lobbyist groups supported this action, although school boards did not, fearing it might cut into the funds schools need later on. This concern is heightened by the fact that most school districts have a cap on how much they can increase tax rates, which limits their options for getting more funds.

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Georgia isn’t alone in tackling the issue of rising taxes; similar concerns have sparked legislative actions in states like Texas, Kansas, Colorado, and Pennsylvania recently. Initially, the Senate aimed to enforce a cap on property tax increases for all local entities lacking stricter limits, whereas the House suggested letting these entities decide whether to participate. As per the latest plan, local bodies have until March 1, 2025, to opt out of the plan. If they don’t, they’ll automatically fall under the new restriction.

This cap specifically benefits homeowners who qualify for a homestead exemption, lasting for the duration of their ownership. The taxable value of their property resets to its market value upon sale. Additionally, lawmakers have supported a move initiated by House Speaker Jon Burns, a Republican from Newington, to double the statewide homestead tax exemption from $2,000 to $4,000, potentially reducing some homeowners’ tax bills by about $100 a year. However, this may only affect a minority of Georgia’s counties due to existing local exemptions that surpass or disregard the state’s exemption.

There’s also a provision in the bill allowing local governments to raise sales taxes by one cent per dollar to compensate for property tax revenues, a practice already adopted by some counties.

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The Republican push for local governments to reduce tax rates to prevent bill increases despite higher property valuations aims to curb what they see as indirect tax hikes. According to the Association of County Commissions of Georgia, numerous local jurisdictions, including at least 39 counties, 35 cities, and 27 school systems, have enacted measures to limit valuation increases, with some benefits exclusively for residents aged 65 or above.

Leander Thorne

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