Brookhaven, GA, July 10, 2015 – The Post Reports – Brookhaven resident and House District 80 Candidate Loren Collins has provided the following Letter to the Editor.
When Brookhaven incorporated in 2012, buried in the City Charter was a unique tax break: any Brookhaven homeowner could freeze the amount of their brand-new city’s taxes, and keep them from increasing – even if DeKalb County appraises the home as. For instance, if your home is assessed at $200,000 one year and $275,000 the next, you don’t pay any city taxes on the $75,000 increase. To receive this Homestead Exemption Freeze, all homeowners have had to do is file a form requesting that their home’s value be frozen in time, and they can be spared from paying any taxes on any increase in value.
But why don’t more people know this? Two and a half years later, how many Brookhaven homeowners are even aware this simple tax break exists, much less how to apply for it? The City of Brookhaven website doesn’t mention it, nor does it offer links to any application forms. (I myself had to e-mail City Hall to inform them that their link to DeKalb’s webpage on homestead exemptions was broken.) Nor does City Hall have any paper forms to provide inquiring homeowners. We’ve all received multiple mailers bragging about the past or making new campaign promises, but why haven’t there been public notices (or even e-mails) informing homeowners how to save on their property taxes simply by filing a form?
Prior to incorporation, Brookhaven voters were assured that our city government would be run with more efficiency and accountability than DeKalb County’s. But even clearing that low bar has proven to be a challenge for the people in charge of our city. Brookhaven residents only gained this tax break thanks to incorporation…and then the city designated DeKalb as the authority to process the applications, leaving it up to homeowners to discover and take advantage of this tax break. Good leadership includes management of the boring, day-to-day things that go into running a government enterprise, and this was a leadership failure with real consequences for Brookhaven homeowners.
Because as originally intended, a Brookhaven homeowner could have frozen their home’s value at the previous year’s assessment at any time during the calendar year. But by handing off city responsibility to DeKalb, Brookhaven created an application deadline of April 1, the same deadline to apply for the county’s tax freeze. As a result, if you apply for the exemption freeze now, you can only lock in your 2015 assessment, not your 2014 one. (And wouldn’t it have been even nicer to have known this in 2013?)
Since 2012, the city has failed in its duty to educate the public about this tax break. And if they had told the public about the city freeze, they would have also been telling homeowners how to save more on their county taxes. How much could Brookhaven homeowners have saved over the last three years if only they’d been told where and when to file a one-page form?
Fortunately, the forms for the property tax freeze exist on DeKalb County’s website, even if the Brookhaven site hasn’t linked to them before now. They are available at http://taxcommissioner.dekalbcountyga.gov/TaxCommissioner/TCForms.html . Or homeowners can instead apply directly for the freeze online, without even printing a form out, at http://taxcommissioner.dekalbcountyga.gov/TaxCommissioner/homesteadOnlineApp/TChomesteadOnline.asp . Freeze your homestead’s value this year (after your appeal, naturally), and you won’t need to worry about new laws “capping” property tax increases. You’ve already been protected against such increases; you just didn’t know it.
There’s a special election on July 14th to fill a State House seat representing much of Brookhaven. I’m running in that election because I believe government should be effective, open, and responsive. And I’d ask that voters remember who actually took the initiative to educate them about tax breaks they hadn’t been told about so that they could save money, and who only made campaign promises.
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