COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Mayor Teresa Tomlinson held her first public forum Thursday night on the "Thaw the Freeze" proposal and the city's property tax system.
The purpose of these public forums is to provide information on a proposed alternative to the current property tax freeze, where property taxes of homes receiving a homestead exemption are based upon the value of a home at the time it is purchased are frozen until it is sold.
The proposal known as "Thaw the Freeze" would not eliminate the freeze, but instead grandfather in anyone who is currently under the freeze to remain under it as long as they own the home that is frozen.
The mayor says in part, the city needs a more current tax system and that the current freeze in place does not protect the economically challenged or senior citizens and only grants advantage to those who stay in a home for a very long time.
The next public forum will be held Tuesday, June 30th at the Springer Opera House.
Below is our Q&A session with Mayor Tomlinson:
Q: What does the thaw the freeze mean for homeowners?
A: It means that if you have the freeze you keep it, but all new property transfers vest in a new tax system based on Fair Market Value, but with a significantly increased Homestead Exemption tax break.
Q: What is the purpose for it, and what do you want homeowners to know about it?
A: We need to adopt a tax system for today. We need a tax system that allows us to take advantage of our growth and that is fair to all citizens. The current freeze system does not protect senior citizens. It does not protect the economically challenged. It grants advantage only to those that stay in a particular home for a very long time.
Q: What does "homestead exemption" mean, and why have the changes now?
A: The Homestead Exemption will actually be increased under the new tax system allowing for a tremendous tax cut. We will go from a $13,500 tax exemption to a $20,000 tax exemption under the new tax system. That's great for homeowners. We need the change now because times have changed. This Freeze tax system hurts more people than it benefits and creates a tax system that is unsustainable. If we want to be a great, competitive city of the future, where businesses and families come to grow and prosper, we need a new and better tax system. We can do all this while protecting those that have the freeze, by allowing them to keep it.
Q: After all the forums and discussion, what type of changes and decisions will be made?
A: The forums will educate us and the citizens. We can make tweaks to the proposal, if need be, and citizens can learn about how this proposal will affect them. In the end, it is an opportunity to move the city to a better place.