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Macon blight tax could have ‘unintended consequences,’ mayor says

Own a blighted property in Bibb County? You may soon be paying a lot more in taxes.

Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Joe Allen is proposing a tax on blighted properties in the county. It's modeled after a similar program in Savannah.
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Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Joe Allen is proposing a tax on blighted properties in the county. It's modeled after a similar program in Savannah.

Some Macon-Bibb County leaders warn there could be some unintended consequences if a new blight tax is implemented.

The blight tax plan calls for some vacant blighted structures to be charged seven times the millage rate as a way to spur owners to fix their properties or put them up for sale. In some instances, however, the higher taxes could keep away people who have bought homes with the intent to rent them out, said Mayor Robert Reichert.

The tax plan, proposed by Commissioner Joe Allen, will be voted on Feb. 19 by the County Commission after being approved by a committee Tuesday.

“You may discourage investment in neighborhoods if someone has to run the risk of paying seven times the tax rate because a property is vandalized and they can’t repair it,” Reichert said at Tuesday’s commission meeting.

Commissioner Valerie Wynn echoed the mayor’s concerns.

“The people that have blighted properties aren’t paying their taxes anyway right now and they’re not going to pay seven times more.,” she said. “I’m not against doing something to get rid of blighted properties but is this the answer?”

But those property owners would have a chance to sate their case through court proceedings, Commissioner Bert Bivins said.

“I would think a judge would have discretion that if someone came in and explained what the situation is,” Bivins said.

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Allen has said the tax would be charged to the worst of the chronically blighted structures in the county. Code enforcement would be used to identify those properties and any blight tax revenue would be used for community redevelopment.

Once a blighted property is removed from the list then that property would be charged half the normal county millage rate for the next four years.

According to figures from the Macon-Bibb blight consultant, Macon-Bibb currently has about 1,566 structures categorized as being in poor condition or suggested for demolition.

The blight tax program has been utilized in other cities such as Dublin and Savannah. The first year Savannah recouped about half of the $35,000 it charged in blight tax, however a much larger number of properties were added to the list in 2018.

Bibb County Tax Commission Wade McCord said Tuesday that he’ll have to check with the state to make sure the blight tax would operate the same for a consolidated government.

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