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School board presents information on senior tax exemption

TAX-EXEMPTIONfrom-bell

 See entire PowerPoint presentation here

 

 

       School Board Chair Daniel Bell said he liked data, as he welcomed the public on April 17th to a forum looking at the economics/trends involving the senior tax exemption issue.

        Bell’s fondness for data, including, statistics, projections, graphs and demographic studies became evident as he presented a lengthy and detailed breakdown of the trends shaping north Georgia and how that could affect school finances. Bell began by noting that the school board, all five were present, had agreed prior to the meeting to waive their meeting pay and he had paid for the room out of his pocket to avoid any political impropriety.

     The fairly large crowd included many school system employees. Several speakers thanked Bell for his work on collecting and examining the wide array of information gleaned from public reports online, presented that night in a 73-slide PowerPoint display (available at pickensprogress.com, look for this story).

     Bell began by asking the crowd to consider what is a “meaningful exemption?” The term meaningful exemption is being used by the Seniors for Change group seeking to cut the amount of property taxes senior citizens pay to support the schools.

     Bell said early on, he had shown some resistance to supporting any quick answer to the exemption question as he had a sworn duty to act in the best interest of the schools on many issues and didn’t want to get sidetracked on a single contentious issue—at least until he had time to do his own research.

Bell said he is pleased with how the process unfolded as voters will have a chance to voice support for an official study commission on the issue in the upcoming primary election. This process will prove better than jumping on an immediate plan as more information has been gathered.

     Bell then took the audience through the slides on school funding and population trends projected for Pickens County.

     The slides show that Pickens is 21st in the state (out of 192 systems) in terms of “local fair share,” meaning that some of the state funding that should come to Pickens County is spread to other less prosperous counties. Bell said, “North Georgia property tax wealth per student is obviously pretty high.” He said this is important as the argument put forth that the state would help make up shortfalls if a senior exemption is increased is simply not true. 

In data drawn from numerous sources, Bell showed projections indicating that Georgia will see a dramatic rise in senior citizens moving here and this trend will be more pronounced in the mountain areas of the state.

Georgia is projected to see a 56 percent increase in citizens 65 years old and older. Where will the seniors want to live? he asked the crowd. The mountains, of course, is the answer for most.

One slide showed that in Pickens County from 2016 to 2030, the percentage of residents here over aged 65 will rise 46 percent, while those in age ranges 45-64 and 0-24 both fall slightly; 24-64 year olds will hold steady.

Bell said that baby boomers are one of the largest generations in American history and they are about to be the largest number of senior citizens we’ve ever seen.

“Think about what this means for property taxes and schools, if you have senior property tax exemptions,” he said.

Bell also addressed a key point in the Seniors for Change proposal that they want to see the current exemption be changed from a total (gross) income of $25,000 per household to a net income of $40,000 (not including Social Security and pension plans).

Bell said people need to realize that a $40,000 net income translates to a gross income of $55,286, which is above the average incomes of some areas of the county (see related graphic).

Bell closed by saying that he is a conservative who hates taxes as much as the next person, but he mainly complains when he sees tax dollars misspent. “I am a conservative but I wouldn’t want kids using encyclopedias at home because we wouldn’t upgrade (technology at the schools),” he said.

 

Comments   

Bull Shot
-15 #11 Bull Shot 2018-04-30 12:46
PickensUgligarch
1. Awesome name.
2. This is purely a reflection of the national trend. Rick folk using their political power and the fact they will ACTUALLY GO FREAKING VOTE. Whereas the poor, the waterheads, the shepherds, the illegitimate, the downtrodden are hooked on their opiates of the masses if not actual opiates.
We can whine about how the rich use their money to pervert the political process, but isn't it actually the poor and uneducated just give it to them.
Hell if the middle class actually voted their class interest, we'd have a different country and it wouldn't have anything to do with culture or morality. It would be decent healthcare for all, better retirement and social security. Better treatment for middle-class soldiers/milita ry veterans. The rich rise up to demand bigger tax cuts for investments but the poor never really make a stink that social security isn't going up or the VA doesn't do the job or American workers don't see raises or vacations such as Scandinavian countries do.
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pinto colvig
+24 #12 pinto colvig 2018-04-30 14:40
Quoting kitty:
Well, scuttle the senior tax break and we will vote NO on every ESPLOST YOU PUT FORTH. no more million dollar playground for football.


That doesn't scare any of us who actually care about this community. all these Esplost projects are nearly as wasteful as a senior tax exemption would be, so please help us eliminate all the waste. It would be the first good deed you or anyone from your generation has ever done
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Doug
-19 #13 Doug 2018-05-02 09:02
I would have appreciated greater grammatical accuracy in a public presentation by a paid educator. "It's" instead of "its", is it mills or mils, mileage or millage? OK, enough nit-picking, but I sure hope all of the facts presented were accurate. Let's consider a few more facts: Pickens' average spend per pupil, based on 2016 data, was $9985.00, and according to some of the more comprehensive school ranking systems, ranks #60 in the GA public school system. Contrast that with Forsyth County, whose spend was $7502.00 for the same year, and they are #4 in the same state ranking. And, for the record, the GA average was $9288.00.

So to use the ever clever format of the presenter.....
Key take-aways:

1. More money spent doesn't guarantee better results.
2. Pickens provides a decent education (60th out of ~ 150 counties), but costs over 7% more to do so than the GA average.
3. If the school system in Pickens was as efficient and effective as Forsyth, that could generate a win/win, versus the otherwise divisive language and antics present from both factions in this debate. We'd have better educated students, and there would be surplus funding to help more of the seniors.

OK, enough of the Key take-aways. Just a few more comments regarding the depth of research, or perhaps lack thereof.

1. The data presented shows 46% growth in seniors through 2030, yet only 5% growth in the 25-44 age group (the group that has the most babies). However, percentages are somewhat limited in relevancy without actual head counts. If the current senior population as reported in other presentations is 20%, then a 46% increase still leaves Pickens with over 70% non-retiree aged folks. Again, percentages can be misleading. What really matters is how many students will we need to educate? And, if we spend our money wisely, what should it cost?

2. I've seen the yard sign - Support Education - Choose Option 1, yet I wonder if Option 1 really supports education, or just perpetuates average results at a higher cost to all. As we face the two options on the May 22 ballot, our students and seniors could be better served by choosing Option 2. We really owe it to both the students and the seniors to study the needs and wants of both, and make responsible and forward looking recommendations from a fresh data set. We might find a way to improve school and student performance, while discovering a budget surplus at the same time (Need to benchmark vs other counties to know what best practices might work for Pickens). Until we do a proper body of research and analysis, we won't know what we can do to improve the current situation. Or, we can perpetuate the same old thing and hope for better results. But, hope is not a strategy.
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Doug
-18 #14 Doug 2018-05-02 16:53
Hey Dragon, we're on the same page for what we want - top notch education, but see a different path to get there. While in my former occupation, I served on the scholarship committee of a nonprofit group whose sole function was to raise money for scholarships for the children of those who worked in the metals industry. 100% of the money we raised went to the scholarships. I'm not sure what was more fun, reading the 80-100 applications from all over the southeast, or personally delivering the check and making a fuss over the recipient's accomplishment at the place where his parents worked. One of the things I learned from that experience is the huge variability in educational quality at the public school level. We had applicants from MS, AR, TN, AL, and GA, and each state clearly had the full range of so-so to excellent schools, based on the applications received. I am absolutely pro education. I was also raised in a "no participation trophies" environment, and if you didn't get winning results, you went back to square one to figure out why. If I were managing a school system in GA and my results didn't compare favorably with the top 10 systems I'd want to know why, even if it proved that I'd been doing it wrong. We don't learn from our successes, we learn from our failures. My point to saying maybe option 2 was a better choice is that the analysis comes from all directions. With the guidance of a bipartisan committee, the school board has input, the community has input, and at the end of the day, the dialogue and data could drive improvement. Even though it was the headlines, the tax exemption is, in my mind, a potential secondary benefit once the educational needs are re-confirmed. Perhaps the young families who are raising kids and fighting the personal budget battle would like to know that their hard earned dollars are being well spent. The spend per pupil data suggests there may be room for improvement, and that has nothing to do with the source of revenue, but how it's deployed. One of your assumptions was correct....we'v e been in the south for all our lives, from small to big towns, but yes, we are new to Pickens. Not sure who these Fat Cats you speak of are....perhaps you can shed some light on that. Are they the local politicians, etc? Just trying to understand how option 2, which merely appoints a committee to study and make positive recommendations for the community that would then still need to be approved by all involved, is such a bad thing. One thing is clear. Option 1 means nothing changes. Nobody is motivated to do better. And I've never been a fan of status quo, unless your status quo is #1.
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Dragon
+19 #15 Dragon 2018-05-02 16:53
Doug...what you and your Screw The Youth group don't understand is Pickens County DOES NOT have the commercial businesses that Forsyth County has to make up the difference the tax exemption would offer so the tax burden will be put on the home owners.

I take it you have no issue screwing young families trying to raise their kids while you life a life of luxury just so you don't have to pay your school taxes anymore? Are you really that cheap?

I dare say you're not from here so you feel so sense of pride in our community nor love seeing the kids from here succeed in life. Too bad it's a good thing to see.

The senior exemption does need to be raised but not by Option 2 where it is a blanket exemption for the Fat Cats to get a free pass. Vote Option 1 so our kids have a chance!
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Doug
-19 #16 Doug 2018-05-02 19:45
STFU - I would agree spending should be a separate issue from funding, but as written, the commission appointed by option 2 will meet with Pickens County Schools, along with other constituents as they gather input that leads them to a recommendation. If they’re going to meet with PCS, then spending is a topic on the table. If option 2 passes, the data may prove we don’t spend enough on schools, and the school board will most certainly have the right to lobby for more. The current senior exemption could even be at risk.......
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STFU
+20 #17 STFU 2018-05-02 20:11
Quoting Doug:
I would have appreciated greater grammatical accuracy in a public presentation by a paid educator. "It's" instead of "its", is it mills or mils, mileage or millage? OK, enough nit-picking, but I sure hope all of the facts presented were accurate. Let's consider a few more facts: Pickens' average spend per pupil, based on 2016 data, was $9985.00, and according to some of the more comprehensive school ranking systems, ranks #60 in the GA public school system. Contrast that with Forsyth County, whose spend was $7502.00 for the same year, and they are #4 in the same state ranking. And, for the record, the GA average was $9288.00.

So to use the ever clever format of the presenter.....
Key take-aways:

1. More money spent doesn't guarantee better results.
2. Pickens provides a decent education (60th out of ~ 150 counties), but costs over 7% more to do so than the GA average.
3. If the school system in Pickens was as efficient and effective as Forsyth, that could generate a win/win, versus the otherwise divisive language and antics present from both factions in this debate. We'd have better educated students, and there would be surplus funding to help more of the seniors.

OK, enough of the Key take-aways. Just a few more comments regarding the depth of research, or perhaps lack thereof.

1. The data presented shows 46% growth in seniors through 2030, yet only 5% growth in the 25-44 age group (the group that has the most babies). However, percentages are somewhat limited in relevancy without actual head counts. If the current senior population as reported in other presentations is 20%, then a 46% increase still leaves Pickens with over 70% non-retiree aged folks. Again, percentages can be misleading. What really matters is how many students will we need to educate? And, if we spend our money wisely, what should it cost?

2. I've seen the yard sign - Support Education - Choose Option 1, yet I wonder if Option 1 really supports education, or just perpetuates average results at a higher cost to all. As we face the two options on the May 22 ballot, our students and seniors could be better served by choosing Option 2. We really owe it to both the students and the seniors to study the needs and wants of both, and make responsible and forward looking recommendations from a fresh data set. We might find a way to improve school and student performance, while discovering a budget surplus at the same time (Need to benchmark vs other counties to know what best practices might work for Pickens). Until we do a proper body of research and analysis, we won't know what we can do to improve the current situation. Or, we can perpetuate the same old thing and hope for better results. But, hope is not a strategy.


An argument about how funds are spent once collected is different from the issue at hand here. I absolutely agree there are many issues to discuss with regard to spending in the school system and the county at large. That is a separate matter from giving a bla let exemption from school tax to elderly curmudgeons.
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Doug
-18 #18 Doug 2018-05-03 12:26
I've tried to respond to both Dragon and STFU with additional perspective to follow their comments, but must be having technical difficulties, or perhaps we are limited to one comment. Whatever the case, if this makes it through.....I fully support education. Did a lot of volunteer scholarship work in my former life. I will not benefit from anything that takes place downstream if Option 2 passes. But I've never been afraid of asking how can we make this better, and it seems like Option 2 offers that opportunity. However, if that somehow becomes an instant hall pass to seniors (absent due process?) then it's not really an option after all.......
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Dragon
+16 #19 Dragon 2018-05-03 19:07
Doug...you still don't understand the burden you will be putting on the tax payers. We are not Forsyth County, Cherokee or Cobb County. This will bankrupt our school system. Take a look at Gilmer County and see how bad financially they are doing after implementing this tax exemption without a commercial tax base to offset it. Option #2 does not guarantee who will be on the so called committee nor what the legislature will decide. The committee can suggest something but the legislature gets the final say! Option #1 will allow us the chance to change the exemption ourselves. I do believe enough attention has been drawn to the matters that the BOE is paying attention.


Quoting Doug:
Hey Dragon, we're on the same page for what we want - top notch education, but see a different path to get there. While in my former occupation, I served on the scholarship committee of a nonprofit group whose sole function was to raise money for scholarships for the children of those who worked in the metals industry. 100% of the money we raised went to the scholarships. I'm not sure what was more fun, reading the 80-100 applications from all over the southeast, or personally delivering the check and making a fuss over the recipient's accomplishment at the place where his parents worked. One of the things I learned from that experience is the huge variability in educational quality at the public school level. We had applicants from MS, AR, TN, AL, and GA, and each state clearly had the full range of so-so to excellent schools, based on the applications received. I am absolutely pro education. I was also raised in a "no participation trophies" environment, and if you didn't get winning results, you went back to square one to figure out why. If I were managing a school system in GA and my results didn't compare favorably with the top 10 systems I'd want to know why, even if it proved that I'd been doing it wrong. We don't learn from our successes, we learn from our failures. My point to saying maybe option 2 was a better choice is that the analysis comes from all directions. With the guidance of a bipartisan committee, the school board has input, the community has input, and at the end of the day, the dialogue and data could drive improvement. Even though it was the headlines, the tax exemption is, in my mind, a potential secondary benefit once the educational needs are re-confirmed. Perhaps the young families who are raising kids and fighting the personal budget battle would like to know that their hard earned dollars are being well spent. The spend per pupil data suggests there may be room for improvement, and that has nothing to do with the source of revenue, but how it's deployed. One of your assumptions was correct....we've been in the south for all our lives, from small to big towns, but yes, we are new to Pickens. Not sure who these Fat Cats you speak of are....perhaps you can shed some light on that. Are they the local politicians, etc? Just trying to understand how option 2, which merely appoints a committee to study and make positive recommendations for the community that would then still need to be approved by all involved, is such a bad thing. One thing is clear. Option 1 means nothing changes. Nobody is motivated to do better. And I've never been a fan of status quo, unless your status quo is #1.
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STFU
+1 #20 STFU 2018-05-24 06:20
Quoting kitty:
Oh, we will get it. With stupid stats listed here, I see 53% of the students don't need reduced or free lunches either. And we ALWAYS vote. Go ahead and test us.


Ha ha, well so much for your prediction skills. Ah, sweet victory!
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