Property tax: to freeze or not to freeze?

By Sara Belsole

COLUMBUS, GA – At her State of the City address Tuesday, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson unveiled her plan to “sunset” Columbus' long-standing property tax freeze.

“The freeze does not help families in tough economic times,” Tomlinson said in her speech.

Tomlinson proposes those who have the property tax freeze will keep it, but all new homeowners will vest in a new property tax system.

Former Mayor Bob Poydasheff says he is in full support of sunsetting the freeze.

“It's unfair, it's not right for the overwhelming majority of the people who are paying that tax,” Poydasheff says.

Poydasheff says he thinks it will be a while before changes are made. So in the meantime, he proposes a minimum alternative real estate tax to level the playing field.

“If a person who is not on the federal poverty level, is paying less than $500, they should pay $500,” Poydasheff says.

Local real estate agents say property taxes play a big role in where you decide to purchase a home. They say they've seen families turn down homes in Columbus because of the property tax freeze.

“For example, a young military couple that comes in and purchases a home and then they find out the taxes are, let's say, $3,000, but their neighbor's taxes who have been there a while are $500, that does not put a good taste in their mouths,” Carolyn Stravinski, Co-owner of Columbus Homes for You, says.

Stravinski says there are about 16,000 homes in Muscogee County that are paying less than $200 a year in property taxes.

“That makes the burden on the rest of the community to carry the weight,” Stravinski says.

To offset the sunsetting, the Mayor is proposing increasing the Homestead Exemption from $13,500 to $20,000.

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