It does not appear that senior citizens in Upson County will have a chance to be exempt from paying the school system’s portion of property taxes.
Last month, Milton Chapman came before the Thomaston-Upson County Board of Education to request that senior citizens be exempt from paying their portion of property taxes. Several other counties in Georgia have such exemptions for their elder residents.
At the time, the board told Chapman he would have to request that State Representative Johnnie Caldwell introduce legislation in the General Assembly that would allow the exemption, which if approved, would put a referendum on the ballot for county residents to vote on. Since then, the board learned from its school system attorney that the board itself would have to make an official request to Caldwell itself before any action would be taken by the General Assembly. School Superintendent Dr. Maggie Shook advised Chapman of this at the meeting and apologized for the misleading information given last month.
“I’m fighting this thing alone, I guess,” said Chapman. “I get a lot of people who agree with me, but I can’t get anybody to come up here to the board meetings. My wife tells me I’m fighting a losing battle, but I told her as long as the door is open, I would keep coming in and fighting this. I’m 84 years old. It’s time for my school tax to come off. There are counties in Georgia that have it. I don’t see why Upson County can’t. I think if it got to a vote out there it would pass, but it seems to me that you all are being mighty slow about getting it out there where it could be on the ballot for a vote.”
Board member Terrell Jackson replied that a tax exemption for senior citizens would be devastating for the school system.
“Mr. Chapman, the reality is, if we exempted the senior citizens from taxes in our community, based on the number of senior citizens, it would have a huge financial impact on the quality of education our kids receive. I understand and I applaud your efforts, but the reality of it is, we would be in a financial mess if we did that. We could not provide an adequate education to the children of Upson County, because it would kill our tax base.”
Chapman asked if the board would present his request to State Rep. Caldwell so that citizens could vote on it.
“I pay 60 percent of my taxes to school taxes, and I’m doggone well getting tired of it,” said Chapman. “I still think it ought to go to Mr. Caldwell, then come back to the people for a vote. If the public comes up and that’s what they want, I don’t see while it can’t be presented to Mr. Caldwell. I don’t appreciate the way it is being handled.”
Board member Steve Sadler told Chapman there was no intent by the board to mislead him, but that there is no way the school system can afford to give such a break at this time.
“I concur with Mr. Jackson,” said Sadler. “The financial burden that we would face is too great if we did some kind of tax break for seniors. My parents are in that age group and my wife’s parents are in that age group, so I fully understand where you’re coming from. I understand what the financial needs are. But at the same time, we have to do what is good for the community. And unfortunately, our tax base is not strong enough to handle some type of tax break for senior citizens at this time.”