Seniors get tax break

COVINGTON - Newton County residents voted Tuesday in favor of giving senior citizens an additional exemption on school property taxes.

Almost 87 percent of voters - or 17,419 - voted yes in Tuesday's election in favor of the homestead exemption, which will give residents age 65 and older whose annual gross income does not exceed $25,000 a $30,000 homestead exemption from the Newton County School System ad valorem taxes.

"I'm delighted," said Frank Davis, president of Newton County Citizens for Tax Relief, which petitioned the Board of Education for property tax relief last spring. "That's wonderful, and I think seniors will be delighted."

Newton County School System Superintendent Steven Whatley said Tuesday night the school system now will have to determine how to "adjust to the financial impact" of the decision.

"It was the intention of the Board of Education to give voters the opportunity to decide whether there would be additional school property tax relief for qualifying seniors," he said. "The voters have decided."

He said before the vote that the passing of the referendum will "negatively impact" the school system's revenue.

"The exemption and income levels were ones that could allow relief for eligible seniors and be least detrimental to other groups of taxpayers - anytime one group of taxpayers is given relief, there is typically a shift of the tax burden to other groups of taxpayers - either now or in the future," he said.

The Newton County School System could lose approximately $587,000 in local property tax revenue, according to an administrative services report from Deborah Robertson, associate superintendent for administration for the NCSS.

Citizen reporter Crystal Tatum contributed to this article.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.