Voters Pass Property Tax Exemptions
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Voters Pass Property Tax Exemptions

Residents in Gwinnett and Cherokee counties voted in favor on the measures on May 21.

Residents in Gwinnett and Cherokee counties voted in favor of the homestead exemption measures on May 21.
Residents in Gwinnett and Cherokee counties voted in favor of the homestead exemption measures on May 21.

Voters in Gwinnett and Cherokee counties voted on Tuesday, May 21, to approve sweeping new homestead exemption measures, reducing some of the strain of property taxes for residents.

Homestead exemptions in Georgia apply to anyone who lives in the home they own as of Jan. 1 of the year they file taxes. Georgia’s standard homestead exemption is $2,000, meaning the first $2,000 of a home’s value are not taxed.

Additional exemptions, as approved by the state legislature, are granted on a county-by-county basis, but typically require a public referendum first.

The homestead exemptions that were on the referendum last Tuesday in Gwinnett were among the largest in the county’s history. The first measure, which passed with about 74 percent of votes, adds a $4,000 exemption — doubling Gwinnett County’s homestead exemption to $8,000.

Lesli Greenberg, who has worked as an Atlanta-area realtor for five years, notes that this is a necessary change to reflect the higher cost of living.

“Housing prices in Georgia continue to accelerate, which has made entering the housing market a challenge for many young adults with moderate income households,” said Greenberg, “Gwinnett County, home to the largest school system, has seen their average home sales price increase by 17.4 percent year over year to currently just over $400,000.”

The second measure, which passed with about 64 percent of votes, impacts public service employees living in Gwinnett County, granting them an additional $2,000 homestead exemption. This includes any firefighters, paramedics, peace officers and law enforcement, any teachers, paraprofessionals, and administrators employed by the Gwinnett County or Buford City School districts, and any member of the armed forces, including reserves and National Guard. The measure should make it easier for them to live in the county where they work.

“The doubling of the homestead exemption and an additional homestead for public workers may allow those who have sat on the sidelines to now enter the housing market,” said Greenberg.

Both measures were championed by State Rep. Matt Reeves, of the 99th district, who has been pushing for greater state-wide homestead exemptions as well. This included HB 1019, introduced last year, which would have doubled the state’s standard $2,000 exemption to $4,000. However, the bill was vetoed by Governor Brian Kemp, citing legal technicalities.

The homestead exemption voted on in Cherokee County, which passed with over 90 percent of the vote, provided a complete homestead exemption for all individuals meeting specific criteria. The residents must be either above the age of 62 or disabled, must have already been granted a homestead exemption for property in Cherokee County for at least five years, and must make no more than $16,000 a year. Any residents in Cherokee County which meet these criteria will no longer have to pay any Cherokee County School District ad valorem taxes for educational purposes.

As all three homestead exemption measures were already passed last year in both the Georgia House and Senate (pending the recent referendum results) they will go into effect Jan. 1 next year.

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