Mayor Teresa Tomlinson will hold four public forums in June and July on her “Thaw the Freeze” proposal to address the city’s property tax structure.
Under the city’s property tax assessment freeze, which was implemented in 1982, the property taxes of homes receiving a homestead exemption are based upon the value of the home at the time it is purchased. That value is then “frozen” or fixed until the property is substantially altered or sold, at which time the value of the home is reassessed and then frozen again at the new value.
Past efforts to lift the freeze at the ballot box and in the courts have failed, but Tomlinsonn said her plan is different because it does not involve removing the freeze. Under her plan, anyone currently under the freeze would be able to stay on it for as long as they desire. When their house changes hands through a sale or when they die, it would then come out from under the freeze.
“Our biggest challenge is the notion that we have voted on this before. Certainly, we have voted on lifting the property tax assessment freeze before, but we’ve never voted on this proposal,” Tomlinson said. “The property tax assessment freeze as it exists now is not benefitting the citizens we had in mind when we instituted it, specifically seniors and those with financial challenges.”
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Tomlinson’s plan would also include a substantial increase in the city’s homestead exemption for properties coming out from under the frereze. The exemption is currently $13,500 per year and would increase to $20,000 a year if the plan is approved.
Tomlinson said she hopes to have the referendum on the 2016 November General Election ballot.
“That’s the time we feel we’ll have the largest turnout,” Tomlinson said. “So as many people as possible who would like to protect those who currently have the freeze, but still move forward with a new tax system, can vote.”
The dates and times for the public Property Tax Freeze forums are as follows:
Thursday, June 11, 5-6:60 p.m., Canaan Baptist Church
Tuesday, June 30, 6-7:30p.m., Springer Opera House
Wednesday, July 22, 6-7:30 p.m., Comer Rec Center
Wednesday, July 29, 6-7:30 p.m., Columbus Public Library