TCSS finding the middle ground

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, January 21, 2020

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The Troup County School Board voted to pass a resolution this past week to provide some relief to senior citizens, who have argued for months that they have paid way too much in school property taxes.

Essentially, the resolution is for residents 65 years old or older. Any resident that meets the age requirements, has a home valued at $100,000 or less or has an annual income of under $40,000 would not have to pay school property taxes.

Anyone who owns property valued at more than $100,000 would pay school property taxes on the amount over $100,000.

The resolution now moves on to the state legislature, where it is expected to pass.

At that point, it’ll be put on the ballot for a vote in May. If voters pass it through, this resolution is going to cost the school system a little more than $1.7 million per year, according to Interim Chief Financial Officer Don Miller.

It’s clear that many of the members of the Tax Relief for Troup County Property Owners Group are unsatisfied with this decision by the school board.

The group’s ultimate mission is to eliminate school property taxes for all seniors, a lofty goal and a challenge they’ve taken head on with no signs of slowing down, and this resolution falls short of that.

However, we wrote weeks ago that the likely solution would probably have to be somewhere in between, where the school system doesn’t lose millions of dollars in funding each year but the senior citizens who really need financial assistance get it.

We think this resolution is fair and does a good job of finding middle ground on a very complicated issue. The school system estimated that this proposal will affect about 2,500 senior citizens in Troup County, though the tax relief group has questioned those figures. Regardless of what the final number is, the resolution will cover most senior citizens with low incomes.

If voters pass it, there won’t be as many seniors having to decide whether to pay bills or to pay for other necessities, such as medicine. Ultimately, that was one of the original goals of the tax relief group. Their efforts show the power of a group of citizens stepping forward.

We also applaud the school board for how it’s handled this situation. If the school system wanted, it could’ve ignored this issue, expecting it to go away.

Instead, a town hall was scheduled and numerous meetings have been held between the superintendent, board members, Miller and the tax relief group. Although many have argued that the board doesn’t care, their actions say otherwise.

Typically, compromise is how the world functions as a whole. We can all draw lines in the sand and yell and scream until the cows come home, but ultimately, both sides typically have to give a little and work together.

In the end, neither side has really gotten everything they want, as we’re sure the board would’ve loved to hold onto those millions of dollars, especially in a school system where expectations are rightfully extremely high and funding is the lifeblood to meeting those lofty goals.   

This solution also doesn’t mean that more exemptions cannot be added later on, and it’s likely that the current resolution — if passed — will need some tweaking in the years ahead.

With all that said, we think the resolution makes a lot of sense and would help senior citizens that need the financial assistance.

Now, voters will get to make their opinion known, which is the right way to handle it.