Troup County School Board to vote on senior tax relief Thursday

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, January 15, 2020

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LaGRANGE — The Troup County School System is expected to vote Thursday on a resolution to provide tax relief for senior citizens up to a certain amount.

School Board Member Joe Franklin made the proposal to where if a home is valued at $100,000 or less, and a person age 65 or older has an income of $40,000 or less, then they would pay nothing in school property taxes.

For those who have a home valued higher than $100,000, they will still have to pay something in school taxes but will see a significant decrease.

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According to TCSS Interim Chief Financial Officer Don Miller, this will have a $1,751,970 impact on the school system. He said the proposal would affect about 2,500 seniors in Troup County.

“The decision the board is going to make this week will impact seniors, employees and will impact students — 12,000 of them,” Franklin said. “Every one of them is our most prized possession. So, I want to do right by our kids and our employees.”

However, he said he has always wanted to give some relief to those seniors who really need it.

“It addresses the issue of the people who really need the help,” Franklin said. “It still takes $1.7 million gone from the budget. Is there enough fat there to do that? If we look hard enough, there probably is.”

If a resolution is passed Thursday night, it is then turned over to local legislatures who will attempt to pass the measure so Troup County voters can have their say on ballots in May.

The $1.7 million hit of the TCSS budget would come on top of an already existing $1.8 million deficit for the upcoming budget year, plus any cuts made in the state budget.

Miller said the proposed option is feasible for the school system, although it will require getting leaner in the budget.

TCSS Superintendent Brian Shumate said the school system can get leaner and still make progress without affecting the classroom. 

He touted the small class sizes within the school system, adding that many are within 20 to 24 children.

“We put a lot of money into instruction to keep class sizes low and we hope to continue to do that,” Shumate said. 

“The question is where to do you find another $1.7 million on top of that. It’s not easy to do when you are doing $30,000 to $40,000 at a time.”

He said the cuts would end up affecting people.

“It is going to affect people, employees and families,” he said.

He said TCSS can try to get more efficient in the buildings and bus routes. However, he urged the crowd to keep in mind that the system is offering several services to people who need it.

School Board Member Cathy Hunt said she didn’t want to give the appearance that Monday night was the first-time board members ever thought about tax relief for seniors. She said it has been on the minds of board members since September when the issues were first expressed.

“Everybody up here has a heart for who needs help,” she said. “We are not turning a deaf ear to the heartbreaking stories. We have looked at a lot of scenarios.”  

She said however the board votes on Thursday night it needs to stand behind its decision.

Another option presented by Miller Thursday night was an income cutoff of $50,000, which would have affected 3,003 seniors. 

That would have caused a $2.7 million impact to the school system budget.

Before the Miller presented his options to the board, a couple of members of the tax relief group spoke.

Claude Foster said the issue of tax relief isn’t going away until seniors feel they have been treated fairly.

“This issue of senior tax relief is a community issue,” Foster said. 

“And I believe it’s not going to go away until the taxpaying citizenry believes that they’ve been treated fairly and represented by their elected school board member.”

He said if the tax relief issue is administrated correctly, it shouldn’t harm teachers or children.

“You have to make cuts in some places, and you are pretty much the best qualified to be able to do that because you should be able to see these figures on a regular basis,” Foster said.

Chuck Franklin said he believes the board has made up his mind.

“I’m sure all of you have made up your minds. You know what we want you to do,” he said. 

“Whether or not you do it, is a horse of a different color.”