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Porterdale moves closer to city homestead tax exemption
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The Porterdale City Council moved closer toward adopting a city homestead tax exemption for applicable residents at its Monday night meeting.

Since the council may have to adopt an increased millage rate to combat budgetary shortfalls, members wanted to offer some relief to residents who own and live in their home in the city.

"It’s my recommendation we set the city exemption at $10,000 regardless of age," said Tom Fox, city manager. The exemption would be placed on the assessed value of a property.

He said Newton County offers a homestead tax exemption as well as one for senior citizens and disabled veterans. However, because of short-staffing at Porterdale’s city hall, Fox said a blanket exemption for any resident who meets the criteria would be a better option.

Fox said out of the 855 tax-paying residents of Porterdale, 271 currently receive the county exemption. He said the owner of a $100,000 would save $126.56 with the proposed city exemption. He said it would help primary homeowners retain some of a tax increase that would result if the council decides to raise the current millage rate from 9.156 to 12.656 to offset revenue shortfalls.

Presently, on a house valued at $100,000, $366.24 would be paid in city taxes in a year. With the proposed 3.5 mill increase, Porterdale’s millage rate would be 12.656, which would increase city taxes on a $100,000 home to $506.24, or an increase of $2.62 a week.

Millage rates must be selected and approved by June 1, 2010, after the county releases the new tax digest and after municipalities hold three readings and public hearings of the new rate.

Because the city must hold a referendum in order to adopt the exemption, the council unanimously voted to have City Attorney Tim Chambers draft a resolution to approve at a special called meeting Tuesday and then send to the General Assembly. The legislature must approve the resolution in order for the city to hold a referendum.

"Every effort will be made to try to have this take effect this year," Fox said.

Sen. John Douglas (R-Social Circle), who often makes appearances at the council meetings of municipalities in District 17, was in attendance at Monday night’s meeting and said that he and Rep. Doug Holt would be happy to help push the resolution through the legislature.

In other news from Porterdale’s Monday council meeting:

• The Christmas decoration fund received a total of $400 donations — $100 from Burnie’s BBQ, $100 from the Foxworth family and $200 from the Porterdale Bar & Grill. A trailer to collect aluminum cans has been set up near city hall and proceeds from the cans collected will go toward the decoration fund.

• Councilmen Mike Harper (Post 4) and Lowell Chambers (Post 5) were sworn in for four year terms after being reelected in November and City Clerk Lynn Rodriguez and Mayor Pro Tem Robert Foxworth (Post 1) were reappointed to their positions.