Centerville residents address council about senior tax exemption

Telegraph correspondentMarch 19, 2013 

CENTERVILLE -- Two residents and a City Council member asked council Tuesday not to attempt to do away with the city’s senior citizen property tax exemption but to set the exemption at $100,000 if the matter is put to a vote in November.

Mayor John Harley said he wants council to decide the matter one way or the other at its next meeting on April 2.

Harley said he will ask council to vote yes or no as to whether the exemption question should be put before voters in November and, if so, whether they should be asked to vote to remove the exemption entirely or change it to a percentage exemption.

Pros and cons of the exemption have been a standing matter of discussion on the council’s agenda for several months.

Councilman Randall Wright told fellow council members the exemption should be changed from the total exemption it is now to an exemption of $100,000 of home value and under. That would mean anything over $100,000 would be taxed by the city.

“The economy has gone down the tubes -- gone south, and personally I think it’s a bad time,” Wright said. “My stand is that it should be a $100,000 (exemption).”

Knowing there were members of the community present wishing to speak to the issue, Harley opened a public hearing on the matter.

Richard Beladino, said while he was speaking personally, he had discussed the matter with many Eagle Springs residents.

Beladino said he would support a $100,000 exemption. He quoted figures and millage rates comparing Centerville and Warner Robins and said it would be cheaper to live in Warner Robins than Centerville if the exemption were removed.

Beladino said he also would consider action to see Centerville merge with Warner Robins if the exemption were on the ballot and removed. He said that was not a threat to council but a possibility.

Harley took exception with Beladino’s conclusion from figures citing Warner Robins’ large commercial tax base as a primary difference between the two cities.

Randall said he agreed with Beladino on the $100,000 exemption but disagreed greatly with any talk of merging Centerville with Warner Robins.

Beladino also told council he believed the exemption was instituted 25 years ago to help seniors financially, and that reason was still valid.

“There must have been a reason for it then, and things are no different now,” he said. “In fact, they’re worse; doctors and health care are worse.”

Dave Bumpus also addressed council speaking against removing the exemption entirely. However, he questioned whether instituting a $100,000 exemption would generate enough additional revenue to make it worthwhile.

Harley ended the discussion saying much of the answer to the city’s financial future was attracting more business revenue to ease the weight of taxation of residents. He said seeking more business is a priority for the city.

In other business, council adopted a $296,240 bid for a sewer project along Benjamin Drive, Brantley Road, Calvin Court and Morgan Drive. Utilities superintendent Mike Brumfield said the project will paid for using 2006 and 2012 special purpose local option sales tax funds.

Brumfield said the project will bring city sewage lines to about 40 homes and will leave only about 10 percent of homes in Centerville using septic tanks.

Also, council heard the first reading of a measure that will add a $12 surcharge to most city fines and fees that will be used to help provide technology improvements for the city’s police department and municipal court. Council will vote on the surcharge April 2.

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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