Assessor clarifies tax exemptions to school board

Madison County Assessor Will Jones explains to the Huntsville School Board Monday a freeze on a valuation increase for residents 65 years and older.

Madison County Assessor Will Jones clarified information  Monday regarding a claim by the district and its board that the millage increase would not affect residents 65 years of age and older.

The board is seeking a 3.9 mill increase – which would raise the district’s millage rate to 36 mills – to fund a Career and Technical Education facility, an activity center and air conditioning for the district’s two main gymnasiums. In a Frequently Asked Questions document distributed by the district, the district stated that “it may be important to note that according to Amendment 79, residents over the age of 65 years of age are exempt from the tax increase.” However, Jones said that’s not accurate.

Jones told the board that Amendment 79 to the Arkansas Constitution could freeze the valuation of a senior citizen’s property; however, the base by which that valuation is multiplied to determine what they owe each year in taxes would be affected by a millage increase.

“If the millage rate was to change, it’s going to affect the amount you pay or invest,” Jones told the board. “If you decide to invest in the students and what we’re trying to offer here, you’re going to be investing in your future and it’s something that everybody’s going to be invested in, not just a certain number of people.

“Your valuation won’t increase, but you will have to pay [the millage rate].”

According to Amendment 79, “a homestead used as the taxpayer’s principal place of residence purchased or constructed on or after Jan. 1, 2001, by a disabled person or by a person 65 years of age or older shall be assessed thereafter based on the lower of the assessed value as of the date of purchase or construction or a later assessed value.”

“When a person becomes disabled or reaches 65 years of age on or after Jan. 1, 2001, that person’s homestead used as the taxpayer’s principal place of residence shall thereafter be assessed based on the lower of the assessed value on the person’s 65th birthday, on the date the person becomes disabled or a later assessed value,” the amendment states. “If a person is disabled or is at least 65 years of age and owns a homestead used as the taxpayer’s principal place of residence on Jan. 1, 2001, the homestead shall be assessed based on the lower of the assessed value on January 1, 2001 or a later assessed value.”

The board also voted on Monday to allow Superintendent Tammi Davis to purchase land adjacent to the 27-acre plot of land where the district hopes to construct the new facilities, if the millage increased is passed in May.

“The lot provides access to the property and should the CTE and activity center plans come to fruition, patrons will need access and that piece of land provides it,” Davis said on Tuesday. “The property already has an entry point conducive to large vehicles – such as buses – that was developed several years ago. The district will not have that expense as we move forward with street access as the entry is already in place and a huge benefit of purchasing the property.”

Davis said the district has offered $60,000 for the lot.

In other business at Monday’s meeting:

• The board approved the district’s 2019-20 academic calendar. It calls for students to begin school on Aug. 14, 2019, and end the year on May 22, 2020.

• The board approved several new policies, as required by the state school board association.

• The board approved the resignations of Carla Taylor, Laura Mahan, Terri Kennedy, Laura McCollough and Mirja Williams; and the transfers of Kelly Yarbrough from HMS ALE teacher to HHS math teacher, and Matt Williams from assistant football coach to head football coach (see related story on 1B).

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