Bryan County has one of the most generous homestead exemptions for senior citizens in the state, knocking $50,000 off the value of a home for both county and school taxes for residents over age 65.
While that may eliminate all school taxes for some seniors, it’s not going to do it for all of them, as I was reminded Tuesday by two visitors to the Bryan County News.
They brought with them a letter they want to run signed “concerned citizen and senior.”
I told them we don’t usually run anonymous letters but that I’d consider using a first initial with a last name, and then I got back to work on getting the paper out the door.
In the meantime, it struck me that they’re right, these two nice ladies. It’s unfair for anyone 70 years old to have to pay school taxes after the decades they’ve already spent funding local education.
In short, they’ve done their bit and then some.
So maybe it’s time to institute impact fees for infrastructure. You know, roads, schools, ambulances, public safety - all that vital stuff that gets stressed as a county grows.
While not popular with some, impact fees - so named because they’re fees on the impact new arrivals have on everything from roads to classrooms - would help ease the burden on property owners currently funding a lot of the local portion of the bill for things like schools.
Those, by the way, will cost about $54 million this year to operate, and that’s not including the $40 million or so it’s going to take to finish the two new elementary schools the county needs to accomodate growing enrollment.
Impact fees might also actually help build community infrastructure ahead of the curve, not after it’s desperately needed. That’s one argument for said fees, anyway, and one that would probably become a lot more animated if school taxes on those 70 and older were completely eliminated.
Without their tax money, the schools might have to raise taxes on younger residents, who probably wouldn’t be happy, which in turn might at least lead to an interesting conversation on how education and other infrastructure is funded.
After all, when taxes are eliminated for one group, somebody else has to pick up the slack. But that’s not the same thing as fairness.
Me, I think if you’re 70, or 65 even, you should get a break from paying for education.
You’ve already paid enough.