Politics & Government

New measure on property tax freezes emerges in Georgia House

It looks like there's a backup plan cooking on property tax assessment freezes — one that wouldn't require a statewide referendum.

The House Rules Committee this morning put House Resolution 1 on Thursday's debate calendar for the full House of Representatives. That resolution calls for a statewide referendum to ask voters if they would like to amend the Constitution and limit property value reassessments to 3 percent a year in an attempt to keep local property taxes down.

If HR 1 passes, which will require bipartisan support and a 2/3 margin, House Bill 233 becomes the enacting vehicle for HR 1. That means some of the details about how the change would be enacted would be laid out in HB 233.

But if HR 1 does not pass, HB 233 could still fulfill its initial intention: Enacting a two-year moratorium on "all increases in the assessed value of real property," except in the cases of new construction, rezonings, or in counties that have millage rate caps.

That could be done without a statewide referendum, according to House Rules Chairman Earl Earhart and state Rep. Ed Lindsey, both Republicans.

"(We can do that) in the short run, with very tight restrictions," said Lindsey, the sponsor for both HR 1 and HB 233.

There is disagreement on that point.

"233 is unconstitutional," state Rep. DuBose Porter, the House Democratic Minority Leader, said.

HB 233 would also require that all properties be reassessed at least once during the two year moratorium. That's to ensure that, if property values have decreased because of the ongoing economic and real estate crisis, taxpayers get the benefit of that decrease on their tax bills, Lindsey said.