ALBANY, GA (WALB) - At a time when more money is needed to provide fire, police, emergency medical, water, and sewer services, and fund our public schools, Dougherty County faces the prospect of having less money.
As we reported this week, the devastating storms of January brought about substantial reductions in property values, and therefore tax collections for next year.
That's an act of nature we can't help, but another blow to our tax base is man-made. That is properties that enjoy a tax exemption.
We have $435 million worth of tax-exempt property in Dougherty County, and public property accounts for almost three-fourths of that total.
$75 million worth is listed as owned by 'Charity Hospitals.' Phoebe Putney is paying almost $900,000, or about one and a half percent, to the county as a fee for services.
'Places of Religious Worship' amount to $31 million, the third largest group that pays no property taxes.
So, almost 4,800 properties contribute essentially nothing to the tax collector, but they get the same county services everyone expects. This means that those of us who do pay property taxes make up the difference.
How long can this continue? When will we start seeing a reduction in the number of tax-exempt properties? Do we need so much public property?
The State Senate Special Tax Exemption Committee will issue a report in December, and we can expect some changes to state law on tax exemptions.
If we don't see a fairer distribution of the tax burden, we may continue to lose tax payers in Dougherty County.
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