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Board targets loopholes in Forsyths homestead exemption for seniors

FORSYTH COUNTY — The Forsyth County Board of Education is set to vote on a resolution next week to request changes in the local ad valorem tax that would remove loopholes that allow people to abuse the senior exemption.

Board members cited a significant loss in school tax revenue from rental and residential properties with senior homestead exemptions claimed by homeowners who are not the legal guardians of the residing students.

If the Forsyth County legislative delegation introduces this bill to the Georgia General Assembly, and it passes, it would be put on the ballot for voters to have final say in November, said Jennifer Caracciolo, spokeswoman for the school system.

The senior homestead exemption was passed by voters in 2000 and implemented in 2001, but has not been modified since, Caracciolo said.

This change would affect only the people using a loophole to get out of paying school taxes.

It would not apply to those seniors who are legal guardians of a Forsyth County Schools’ student or who would otherwise be eligible for the exemption, said Nancy Roche, board member for District 5, who helped edit the resolution.

Kristin Morrissey of District 2 noted senior exemptions increased by 13 percent in a little more than a year and are expected to continue rising due to a number or recently zoned senior housing developments.

“Going forward, the senior population is growing. Many seniors are on fixed incomes and we recognize that. But at the same time, we have to be fair to all taxpayers,” said Ann Crow, District 1 board member.

The resolution, which Crow drafted, noted Forsyth maintains the “lowest cost per pupil among the 12 largest school districts in the state, while recording some of the highest test scores in Georgia.”

The board and Superintendent Jeff Bearden agreed it costs about $7,300 per year to educate one student.

“The board is resolved to continue to seek alternative methods of funding and fair distribution of ad valorem tax payments,” the resolution said.

Board members simply discussed the resolution at Thursday’s work session, for which District 3 board member Tom Cleveland was absent.

A vote on the matter was tabled until Feb. 18, so all members could be present.