State Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) has introduced legislation calling for a referendum to be voted on by the citizens of Effingham County that would place caps on property tax increases within the county.
“We have given the citizens the opportunity to vote on a chairman at large, an elections board and alcoholic beverages,” Carter said. “Now we should give them the opportunity to vote on property tax caps.”
The legislation is similar to the Stephens-Day bill in Chatham County and calls for an increase in a homeowner’s homestead exemption that would limit tax increases to no more than the rate of inflation.
“Numerous counties throughout our state have implemented this cap in the past and have found it to be effective in controlling skyrocketing property taxes,” Carter said.
Carter introduced the same legislation in the House three years ago and had announced his intentions to re-introduce the legislation at several public meetings in Effingham County during the past year. He opted not to re-introduce last year and attempted to reach a compromise on increasing the homestead exemption for seniors on their school board property taxes.
Because each taxing authority must vote on the referendum, there are three bills being proposed. HB 998 addresses the city of Rincon, HB 999 addresses the Effingham County Board of Education and HB 1001 addresses Effingham County. The bills can be found at www.legis.state.ga.us/.
HB 998 was passed by the House and is now in the Senate for consideration. It has been assigned to the
Senate’s State and Local Governmental Operations Committee. Carter acknowledged the bill will have little impact on Rincon, since the city does not levy a property tax, and has asked Sen. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville) to have the bill held up in the Senate while the other two measures make their way through.
The bills have to be done separately, Carter said, so he can’t introduce them and have them move through together.
“The mayor and city council of Rincon do such a fine job,” Carter said, referring to the city’s ability to keep its millage rate at zero.
HB 999 and 1001 have been read twice in the House. The next step is for the bills to be passed out of the House’s Committee on Intergovernmental Coordination for approval on the floor.
What happens to those bills in committee depends on what happens with other bills expected to come before lawmakers soon. Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson’s GREAT bill, a move to replace property taxes throughout the state, should be finished soon. State Sen. Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) has introduced a bill, SB 687, to make the effects of Stephens-Day statewide.
“If Eric’s bill doesn’t pass or if the Speaker’s bill doesn’t pass, at least we’ve got something in Effingham County,” Carter said of his proposal.
Also, the Effingham Tax Study Committee is scheduled to meet again.
“This is one of the options they are considering,” Carter said. “If they endorse this, it will stand a better chance.”