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Misapplied Exemptions Costing Villa Rica $124k Annually

Villa Rica city officials are looking to fix what they believe is a decade-old taxation error that may have robbed the city of hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue since 2004.
 
City Attorney David Mecklin says the problem stems from a mis-application of the senior exemption on real estate taxes.
 
“When this exemption was enacted, the intent was to give a break to low-income senior citizens on their taxes. That's something the state does when you turn 65-- You no longer have to pay school taxes. The thought was the city too was going to give some type of break to senior citizens who met a certain income qualification," Mecklin explained on WLBB Radio. "When the ordinance was passed the provision was that if you had an income of less than $10,000, not including social security and retirement benefits, then you would qualify for the senior exemption."
 
Mecklin says the exemption is being applied correctly for Villa Rica residents in Douglas County. "But because of some type of miscommunication between the city (Villa Rica) and (Carroll) County, it has not been applied correctly (to Villa Rica residents living in Carroll County) for some number of years.
 
Mecklin says he had learned of the issue within the last two weeks.
 
The error was actually brought to light by city councilwoman Leslie McPherson and her husband. Then it was confirmed by city officials.
 
McPherson's husband, Mike turned 65 last year. After receiving their proposed tax bill in the mail this year, Mike noticed there was not a city tax listed.
 
"We thought that wasn't right. We asked the tax office and they said you don't pay city taxes after 65. We said we know there is no school tax... but no city tax?" Councilwoman McPherson said. "So I asked our city manager. I told him that I thought maybe someone at the tax office had made an error. But after doing research, he found out that it has been going on. And he found the ordinance in question. It was totally by accident that we found this."
 
"So any Villa Rica resident living in Carroll County who was applying for a senior exemption was having all of their taxes exempted," Mecklin added. "That's not the way it should be-- that's not the way it was intended."
 
Mecklin continues reviewing the ordinance and state law and plans to present to the council at a future meeting to begin the discussions to determine whether the council plans (or state law requires the city) to make changes to the exemptions.
 
City Manager David Milliron has recommended that a decision not be approved until after the council is fully seated with the new Mayor and Ward 4 Council Person. Those elections are November 8th.
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