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Bill to close loophole in Forsyth senior homestead exemptions progressing

ATLANTA — As state lawmakers continue to craft legislation during the 2016 Georgia General Assembly, one local bill relating to seniors being exempt from paying school taxes is on its way to a decision by voters later this year.

House Bill 1102 addresses a loophole in the law that permits seniors to be exempt from paying Forsyth County school district ad valorem taxes, according to District 25 state Rep. Mike Dudgeon of south Forsyth.

The bill, sponsored so far by the five local House of Representatives members — Dudgeon, Sheri Gilligan, Geoff Duncan, Wes Cantrell and Kevin Tanner, all Republicans — would add a new section stating that a senior cannot receive the exemption if there are minor children living in the house, unless they are the person’s natural or adopted children or foster children.

Relationships to which this would also not apply are if the senior is a child’s appointed guardian or if the child is a temporary resident of the house for up to one year.

“It’s people who are trying to evade the system we’re trying to get at, but if a senior has a child for a legitimate reason, we don’t want to impact them,” Dudgeon said. “And it’s only for a one-year temporary thing right now.”

The loophole this bill would close, for example, would be if there is a senior living in a house with his or her children and grandchildren — the children’s parents are the legal guardians — the senior could not receive an exemption.

The bill would not diminish the eligibility for any other senior who is legitimately exempt.

A second loophole that dealt with partial rentals was dropped from the bill, Dudgeon said.

Lawmakers were trying to also make it illegal to gain the exemption while having a child and his or her family live in a rented-out room of the house in which the senior also lives.

However, writing local law to cover a number of scenarios for rentals became too confusing for the purpose of this legislation, Dudgeon said.

Dudgeon and the other House members introduced the bill Monday.

It was brought to their attention after the Forsyth County Board of Education passed a resolution asking the delegation to address the matter.

Since it is proposed as a local law that would apply only to Forsyth, the entire House and Senate does not need to pass the bill, just the seven local delegation members.

Dudgeon said Forsyth’s two state senators have indicated they will support HB 1102.

District 27 state Sen. Michael Williams, who represents most of Forsyth County save for a small northeastern corner that falls within Sen. Steve Gooch of Dahlonega’s District 51, said he is on board.

If all seven delegation members support the bill, it will be placed on the ballot in November.

If voters approve it, the measure would take effect on Jan. 1.