Senior citizen exemptions debated in Dade County, Ga.

Senior citizen exemptions debated in Dade County, Ga.

January 21st, 2014 by David Cobb in Local Regional News

Shawn Tobin

Photo by Ben Benton/Times Free Press.

In a standing-room-only meeting Monday night, the Dade County Board of Education and a group of Dade County senior citizens swapped information, concerns and a few jabs over the possibility of putting the county's existing seniors' school property tax exemption on the ballot for a potential repeal.

Dade County Superintendent Shawn Tobin explained over the course of a 40-minute presentation the need to rescind the existing exemption that those 65-and older currently enjoy from contributing to Dade County public schools through property taxes.

The original estimate made by then-County Commissioner Ben Brandon in 2005 when the exemption was introduced for what it would cost Dade County schools is not accurate, Tobin said. And he explained that with the school board facing a nearly impossible budget situation, the local education system in the county needs the return of senior dollars to the equation.

If Dade County representatives Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, and Rep. John Deffenbaugh, R-Lookout Mountain, follow through with presenting the bill, it would appear on the ballot for the county's voter to decide.

"Everybody has endured the pain," Tobin said of the slashed funding that Dade County schools have experienced since 2003.

But a crowd primarily comprised of Dade County senior citizens provided plenty of pushback, showing reluctance to relinquish their tax break, which Tobin argued is accounting for nearly a million dollars in lost funding for the school district.

"It is essentially the redistribution of wealth, and that idea is communistic and simple," said Lynn Hartman during a more than hourlong public input session. She also accused Tobin of creating "geographical warfare" against residents of Lookout Mountain.

Contact staff writer David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731.