My opponent has been sticking a flyer on mailboxes in our community that says: “Mike Jacobs says he’s a hero for helping to pass the Property Tax Assessment Freeze referendum that we must vote on Tuesday.”
I’m no hero, although my kids think I am. That’s good enough for me.
But I do want to make sure that you have correct and complete information about what the Property Tax Assessment Freeze is, how it works, and why it’s important that we renew it this year. The measure appears to have a small but dedicated band of opponents who are spreading misinformation about it.
The original Property Tax Assessment Freeze was passed during the 2006 session of the General Assembly, ratified overwhelmingly by DeKalb County voters in the 2006 election, and went into effect at the beginning of 2007. Unfortunately, because some of my colleagues in the DeKalb County legislative delegation insisted upon writing a five-year sunset into the legislation, the current assessment freeze will expire at the end of the 2011 tax year unless it is renewed.
That renewal is on your ballot this year. My opponent says the renewal is unnecessary because “[w]e already have a Property Tax Assessment Freeze in force for 2 more years.” This statement is factually incorrect and misrepresents why it’s important to renew the assessment freeze this year.
The Property Tax Assessment Freeze is only in effect for one more tax year, 2011, not for two years. More importantly, there isn’t another election scheduled in unincorporated DeKalb County between the 2010 election and the expiration of the current assessment freeze. This Tuesday, November 2, is our last opportunity to renew the assessment freeze before it expires.
If passed by voters on November 2, this renewal will remain in place for an additional five years until the end of 2016.
The assessment freeze applies only to the county government’s portion of your property tax bill, not the board of education’s portion. It also applies only to homesteads (your primary residence).
Does the Property Tax Assessment Freeze save you money? Absolutely! In most cases, it saves a homeowner hundreds of dollars. If you look at your most recent property tax bill, you should see an item in capital letters that says: “THE PROPERTY TAX FREEZE EXEMPTION SAVED YOU X DOLLARS.”
Below is part of my 2010 property tax bill. The item I just mentioned is highlighted. Using my bill as an example, the amount saved by the assessment freeze is $298.76.
If the Property Tax Assessment Freeze does not prevail on November 2, each homeowner will see this dollar amount (whatever the equivalent amount to my $298.76 is on your bill) added back into their property tax bill starting in 2012.
Two components govern the amount of money that you pay in property taxes to the county government: the millage rate and your property assessment. The millage rate is set by the DeKalb County Commission. In theory, the commissioners could reduce the millage rate to alleviate the impact of failing to pass the assessment freeze referendum this Tuesday. But you and I know that won’t happen.
Another important benefit of the Property Tax Assessment Freeze is that it eliminates backdoor property tax hikes. Rather than raising your property taxes by artificially increasing the assessed value of your home – something the county continues to do even as home values slide downward – the assessment freeze forces the county commission to vote to increase the millage rate openly and publicly if they want to raise your property taxes.
Simply put, the assessment freeze makes your elected county commissioners accountable for raising your property taxes, rather than letting an unaccountable tax assessor handle the dirty work of raising your property taxes.
In technical terms, the Property Tax Assessment Freeze is known as a “floating homestead exemption” because it causes your homestead exemption to increase by an amount equal to any increase in the assessed value of your home, thus erasing the increase in your property assessment. That means it does not prevent the assessed value of your home from being reduced if the fair market value goes down. The “freeze” only serves as a ceiling on the assessed value of your home, not a floor.
The Property Tax Assessment Freeze is a real mechanism that saves you money and holds your property taxes in check. The five-year renewal of the assessment freeze is titled “DeKalb County Homestead Referendum” on your ballot and is the very last item. I hope you will join me in supporting it.