By MICHAEL W. PANNELL
CENTERVILLE -- City Council must decide by May whether or not it will seek to do away with the city’s property tax exemption for senior citizens 70 and older.
City administrator Patrick Eidson told council during its Tuesday work session it must decide by then in order to meet legal deadlines to get the matter on a ballot for citizens to decide in a November referendum.
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In a brief discussion, Councilman Ed Tucker said if the exemption was eliminated entirely, a senior citizen with a home valued at $100,000 would probably have to start paying about $39 a month in tax.
Council members have discussed doing away with the exemption entirely as well as possibly exempting a portion of the value of senior’s homes.
However, Mayor John Harley has said the original purpose of the exemption, to help a small number of limited-income elderly in the community -- mostly widows, is no longer valid. He said some seniors have moved to Centerville just to get the exemption.
Harley said Wednesday the burden of expanded services in the growing community is being paid by those under 70 while those over 70 are getting a free ride.
“I turn 70 this year and I don’t plan to take the exemption,” he said. “The tax is being paid, it’s just being collected on the backs of others (under 70) who have to pay.”
Tucker said in the past 10 years city government has lost about $1.5 million in revenue due to the exemption.
In another financial discussion, council heard that the city had gotten an “unqualified opinion” in its 2012 fiscal year audit, meaning it had gotten a clean financial bill of health.
Todd Giddens of the Warner Robins accounting firm of Nichols, Cauley & Associates told council while some cities were going bankrupt in the current economy, Centerville was fortunate to have around nine months operating expense in reserve.
He commended the city on sound financial practices.
In turn, both Harley and Tucker commended the work of city department heads and employees for working to keep budgets tight and the city on good financial ground.
In financial decisions Tuesday, council unanimously passed a policy stating the city would not make donations of taxpayer dollars to charitable causes.
They also decided to spend $2,500 for the next for an Internet-based city mapping service provided by the Middle Georgia Regional Commission that will allow officials to track and catalog a variety of information, including water and sewer infrastructure. The service is a budgeted-for item in the city’s water department.
Council also heard a final report Tuesday from an informal study done by the Centerville Police Department on speeding cars on Sentry Oaks Drive that came about due to resident complaints.
It concluded there was not a significant speeding problem on the street.
In a letter concerning the study, Centerville Police Chief Sidney Andrews reported that the “study does not show these speeds to be extreme which warrants any special action to be taken.” Andrews said police will continue to monitor Sentry Oaks.
The report stated the average speed of 767 cars tracked over several weeks was 31 mph, six over the posted 25 mph limit. The highest speed recorded was one automobile doing 55.
The study also included reported accidents during 2012 and 2013. It stated there were three accidents and that speeding was not a critical factor in any of them.
Contact Michael W. Pannell at email@example.com