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It’s a start

POSTED: March 6, 2008 5:00 a.m.

News that the state has abolished its portion of the property tax is no doubt welcome to homeowners. That’s a good thing, but let’s get real. That $15-25 saved on a home valued at $150,000 is not what’s hurting local property owners - who have been hit by a double whammy in recent years thanks to rapid growth.

One blow has been increasing real estate values, which before the market imploded were fine if you wanted to sell your house, but not so much fun when they drove up the assessed value of homes and your taxes.

The other problem comes as population increases.

Growth means more stress on local governments to provide services ranging from picking up your garbage to keeping your neighborhood safe to educating your children (and if you don’t have any children, your new neighbor’s children). In short, the more people you have in a community, the more services you need. The more services you need, the more it costs residents old and new − especially in residential areas such as ours where paying for those services falls largely on property owners.

That in a nutshell is why property taxes in our area have gone up so much. Fortunately, politicians at the state level are starting to get the message that many homeowners are feeling the pain in their pocketbooks. The recent move to reform property taxes started with House Speaker Glenn Richardson’s GREAT plan, which in its first incarnation would have eliminated all ad valorem taxes and replaced them with taxes on sales and services, and has progressed to other measures, including one to let officials hold local referendums to see if folks want to replace their property taxes with sales taxes. Another plan, this one by Savannah Senator Eric Johnson, would help keep a lid on future increases by freezing property values beginning in January 2009 and providing homestead exemptions to offset any increases in value.

We applaud the effort, though it's really little help to homeowners who have seen their property taxes double or even triple over the past few years, at a time when income hasn’t risen accordingly and other costs (gasoline, health care, food) have also increased.

What we need is a plan to reduce the tax burden on homeowners, not merely keep it from getting heavier.

Bryan County News

Feb. 20, 2008

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