School board member wants equity for taxpayers - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

School board member wants equity for taxpayers

September 20, 2006

Albany-- A Dougherty County School Board member says some tax-exempt properties shouldn't be and that may cause you to pay more than your fair share.

Government buildings like the courthouse and non-for-profit hospitals like Phoebe Putney are eligible for tax-exempt status. But Dougherty County School Board member David Maschke says some other non-profit entities are actually the opposite.

"My concern is that there's fairness and equity across the board for all taxpayers," says Mashke. So Mashke began looking at tax-exempt properties in the county to find out which ones are legitimate and which ones may be beating the system.

"I went through the tax roll briefly, found some examples and asked the tax director to look into them," says Mashke. Tax Director Denver Hooten has been working with the school board's finance committee and looking through the nearly 3000 parcels of tax-exempt property in Dougherty County. She admits some do slip through.

"Yes, occasionally. We're only talking about one or two a year. We're not talking about a great many," says Hooten. And it can be hard to catch.  The assessors rely on audit letters and what they see as they go through the county but they mostly depend on people reporting a change in status.

"We have to rely on either they tell us or someone else notifies us," says Hooten. Mashke's main concern is that when property owners don't report a change in tax status, taxpayers end up paying more than they should.

"I think there may be slight changes to the tax roll if certain exemptions have been overlooked but the major exemptions like churches, hospitals and basically government agencies and the schools, that's where the major exemptions are," says School Finance Director Lloyd.

Still, Maschke feels every little bit counts and wants a detailed look at the tax rolls.

"If we can identify people and businesses that should be paying their taxes, we need to make sure that happens," says Maschke. So that some don't have to pay more than their fair share. 

Soon, the finance committee will receive a detailed list of non-profits. They'll review the data and decide what, if any, action to take.

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