The vote to override the mayor’s veto stood at 5-1, with Councilman Glen Cummins opposing.
The council’s decision came after several residents once again spoke out in opposition to the ordinance, all of whom expressed concerns about the possibility of the city doing away with the present senior homestead exemption.
That belief, Council member John Beresford said, is “misinformation.”
He noted the ordinance was created in order to keep the city under control of its fire department.
Resident John Rust, who proclaimed at the meeting “there was no fire in Canton now,” said he didn’t understand why there’s “such a rush” to implement the ordinance with no plan in place.
Rust said he’d support allowing the creation of an ordinance to go out for a referendum for all voters to decide.
The creation of the ordinance for the district was originally floated by Council member Bob Rush, which is also viewed as an alternative to possibly consolidating fire services with Cherokee
Official talks with the county have been placed on the backburner for now as the majority of the council is not interested in consolidation at this time.
Cummins, who voted against overriding the veto, said the council has not come forth with any specifics on what it plans to do now that the ordinance is in place.
“We need a plan,” he said. “There has been no plan presented as to how the city is going to do this.”
He added the ordinance would have an “extremely negative impact on less fortunate seniors.”
Beresford countered Cummins’ remarks, and reminded him there were six options he presented months ago to a fire services committee Hobgood appointed to review options to enhance fire protection.
He noted one of those proposals, consolidation with the county was, painted as being “dictatorial.”
He also said that as a council member, he has to represent not only the city’s senior citizens, but also those who are not seniors or who do not receive the senior homestead exemption.
Canton grants a $112,000 exemption on property for seniors age 62 or older. The person receiving the exemption must reside in the home.
As an example, a senior in Canton who owns a home valued at $300,000, assessed at 40 percent, or $120,000, would have the $112,000 homestead exemption applied, which would leave the property with $8,000 that can be taxed.
The city would then calculate the taxable portion with its 6.80 millage rate, resulting in the homeowner having a $54 tax bill.
As property values decline, some homeowners end up paying no property taxes.
Mayor Gene Hobgood said he has concerns about the legality of the removing the exemption, and noted he spoke with Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, who he said had “concerns” about implementing the ordinance.
The mayor said Olens expressed hesitation about whether the district could be created and does what he believes would take away the homestead exemption.
Council Member Hooky Huffman said on Monday he offered for the city to consider two options: asking residents to consider approving a bond referendum to fund building two fire stations or use the district to solely fund the construction of the stations.
Huffman said his plan, which he noted will be the likely route the council will take, would leave the exemption in place.
Huffman added the city will continue funding fire services and operations in the city’s general fund budget.
Huffman said the millage rate for the district has not been determined.
The council member, who receives the senior homestead exemption, said he wants to stress to the city’s senior citizens that they will not lose their senior exemptions.
Huffman added believes he should have to pay more to shore up the city’s fire services.
“I’m ashamed to pay $50.23 for services I get,” he said, referring to his property tax bill. “I need to pay more. I should pay more than $50.23.”
The Canton City Council in other business:
* Had Mayor Gene Hobgood read a proclamation declaring Aug. 25 as Support Our Senior Citizens Day in the city;
* Reviewed a memorandum of understanding with Northside Hospital-Cherokee for use of the water tank on Lakeview Drive;
* Reviewed a proposal to accept the private streets of the Villas at RiverStone;
* Reviewed a request by the Cherokee County Board of Education to revert Academy Street between West Main Street and Archer Street to two-way traffic; and
* Heard a presentation from the Main Street Program on its strategy and tactics.