Seniors oppose nixing homestead exemption
by Kristal Dixon
kdixon@cherokeetribune.com
January 28, 2012 12:00 AM | 2207 views | 4 4 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — A Canton City Council member’s proposal to eliminate the senior homestead exemption was met with resounding opposition on Thursday night.

Senior citizens spoke out against Councilman Bill Bryan’s proposal to eliminate the senior homestead exemption.

Bryan initially brought the matter up for discussion during the council’s Jan. 5 meeting, noting he didn’t think it was fair that the city’s senior citizen population received property tax breaks.

The council voted 1-5 to deny Bryan’s motion, with Bryan the only council member supporting his motion.

During the meeting, he said that in 2011, 1,231 homes in the city paid either no property taxes or a “disproportionately small amount” of taxes.

“This is not an attack on senior citizens,” he said, adding he was just “doing the job I was elected to do.”

Dwight Kees, who said most seniors live on fixed income, said most seniors do not have disposable income because many often contribute to their children’s households to make ends meet.

“Don’t drive your seniors out” by eliminating the exemption, he directed the council.

Steve Bloom said he moved to Canton because of the “tax advantage” of having a senior homestead exemption.

“You can’t take tax benefits form people who’ve made lifelong decisions to come into an area based upon current rules and regulations and taxation,” he said, receiving applause.

Arnie Kornblum, who has lived in Canton for four years, said he was also opposed.

Many seniors, he said, were attracted to Canton because of the tax benefit. And if the benefit were to be eliminated, baby boomers contemplating moving to the area “could and most likely reconsider this move.”

Carole Day said she didn’t move to Canton because of the senior homestead exemption, but added it was an “unexpected plus.”

Wanting to be near her children, she noted she and other seniors aren’t “asking for a handout” and many seniors in the city aren’t well off.

“I don’t think you can listen to Mr. Bryan over his irate tirades,” she added.

Councilman Hooky Huffman added he thought Bryan “has definitely pointed out some leaks” in his analysis, but noted he didn’t think a total elimination of the exemption would be wise.

During his annual state of the city, Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood said “this idea will go nowhere” and is a waste of the council’s time to discuss it.

“Seniors are an important part of our community and we must recognize the value of seniors to our city, not just social, but financial as well.”

The Canton City Council also:

* Approved a monthly $50 allowance for the mayor and council for cell phone use;

* Discussed a comprehensive fire protection plan;

* Directed City Manager Scott Wood to solicit bids to perform an external audit of the Water and Sewer Department;

* Tabled discussion on a proposed leak adjustment policy and a water billing ordinance;

* The council met in closed session to discuss litigation, but took no action upon returning.

Comments
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we're watching you
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January 31, 2012
One of the considerations in moving to the Canton area was the senior homestead exemption.. We have many friends approaching retirement age from the Northeast who are considering this move.

After paying exorbitant property and school taxes until we retired to Georgia, I believe that we have paid our fair share.

How about looking to the rental community who use the schools and yet make no school tax contribution. They enjoy all the services of Canton without any burden; as do all the tax paying citizens
Bill Bryan
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February 01, 2012
An elected official first should listen - not just to those who are the loudest but to ALL citizens they represent. My duty is to represent every single citizen in the city - not just certain groups. 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.

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. I am not questioning the county school tax exemption.

While city revenues continue to shrink (down 22.5% last year), the number of households paying zero or very little 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.

Because five of the seven city councilmen reap thousands of dollars 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?

Oldbutvigilant
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January 29, 2012
This is the first salvo for elected officials to end this popular exemption. Bill Bryan should have opposition at the next elections I hope. Unless seniors are vigilant, expect the county to do the same.
Bigjohn243
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January 31, 2012
Why are takes based on what we own anyway , seems that we should tax all citizens the same , say a occupancy tax to pay for services , after all does the family in the million dollar home get more from goverment that the family in the 600 dollar a mounth appartment , i think the Police and Fire units are the same probably the same schools , if not family # 1 probably pays taxes for your school but uses a private school , so the apartment dweller no gets more , so FIX THE SYSTEM if the apartment dwellers move they move ,
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