Mayor Tomlinson to host tax freeze sunset meeting Wednesday

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson will host a meeting with public officials Wednesday concerning her proposal to place a “sunset” on the city’s property tax assessment freeze, according to a city release.

The meeting, set for 4 p.m. in the ground floor conference room of the Government Center, is to include city officials, Columbus Councilors, members of the school board, legislative delegation, Development Authority and Board of Tax Assessors.

Tomlinson is proposing a referendum that would sunset the tax freeze by removing it from all residential property when it changes hands in the future, while keeping it in place for existing home owners.

Implemented by referendum in 1982, the property tax assessment freeze locks down a property’s tax assessment from the time it is bought to the time that it changes hands. It was originally intended to protect older taxpayers whose fixed incomes weren’t keeping up with rising property values and taxes, and to act as a brake on city spending.

An unintended consequence of the frozen assessments are widely disparate tax bills on near identical homes. A newcomer to a neighborhood might pay 20 times or more the taxes a long-time resident pays.

The freeze has been challenged over the years both at the ballot box and in court, but it has prevailed in both venues. Tomlinson has said her approach of allowing anyone and everyone who wants to remain under the freeze may be the best chance the city has to remove it, gradually over time.

Tomlinson’s proposal would also increase the homestead exemption on property coming out from under the freeze, from $13,500 to $20,000.