Jonesboro calls for vote on decreased tax break

Proposed referendum could lower Homestead Exemption to $10,000

— Jonesboro residents may soon decide whether they want to pay city property taxes every year.

The Jonesboro City Council voted 5-1 to start the process of setting up a referendum on lowering its Homestead Exemption from $60,000 to $10,000 Monday. Council members approved a resolution to ask the Clayton County Legislative Delegation for legislation to approve the referendum. Councilman Clarence Mann voted against the resolution.

Jonesboro officials have long argued that most home owners in the city are not paying property taxes because the exemption is so high and home values have fallen during the recession. Under state law, property is taxed at 40-percent of its fair market value. Because of the exemption, businesses have to shoulder much of the burden of paying the property taxes, according to city leaders.

Figures provided to the council show the owner of a home with a fair market value of $50,000 would pay $15 in property taxes if residents approve the lower exemption rate. The data also shows the owner of a $70,000 home would pay $27 in property taxes, while the owner of a $40,000 home would pay $9.

Jonesboro Mayor Joy Day estimated the average fair market value of a home in the city is between $40,000 and $50,000.

Legislation to set a date for the referendum is expected to go before the Georgia General Assembly for approval this spring. The referendum would likely take place during the municipal elections in November if approved by the General Assembly.

Council members argued over the necessity of a lower Homestead Exemption. But the majority of them ultimately agreed the decision should be placed in the hands of residents rather elected officials.