Buckhead man working on grass roots senior tax savings
By Greg Sullivan
Do you believe that it's the responsibility of every taxpayer to put up their full share to support public education?
Not everyone feels this concept goes without exception, and one such man will be making an appearance at Monday night's Morgan County School Board of Education meeting to present his case.
Buckhead resident Lance Pailer said he believes that the senior citizens of Morgan County, himself included, are seeing their pockets stretched too thin these days, citing recent property reassessments as a factor.
The answer, at least for Pailer, is scaling back school board taxes for seniors.
"What we're trying to do is to get some relief for people over 65 in this county," said Pailer, who has previously submitted two letters to the editor in recent editions of the Citizen.
"Some folks, I've been told, cannot afford to pay their taxes," he said. "If this is the case, we need to get these people some help."
When asked why he felt this particular tax break was needed, be it personal experience, stories from others or a philosophical issue, Pailer said it was more a combination of the three.
If the Board were to like what they hear from Pailer at Monday's meeting, they could meet with him and his group to discuss terms of an agreement. This possible agreement, then, could potentially lead to the Board approving some action on the issue later this year, if they so chose.
In his effort to persuade the local school board, Pailer has from now until December to try and win a board approval for some version of his plan to be up for a vote in the Georgia General Assembly, where approval there could put a resolution on the ballot for the people of Morgan County in 2009 election where, of course, not all the voters would be seniors.
"The Board is sensitive to what he has to say and is willing to listen to him," Morgan County Schools Superintendent Stan DeJarnett said of Pailer. "I believe we can resolve this so that we can provide some relief for senior citizens without hurting the school system severely. It's not an all or nothing proposition."
DeJarnett said he had met with Pailer twice as of Monday evening and said that Pailer doesn't appear to be trying to pit different groups in the county against one another.
"We don't want this to be adversarial," DeJarnett said.
There is at least some precedence for senior relief on a regional level. DeJarnett said school systems exist in Georgia with tax relief for seniors and said Morgan County already provides two homestead exemptions for people over 65. "We're going to look at what some other systems are doing," he said.
DeJarnett also pointed out, however, that oftentimes systems that provide heavy senior relief on school taxes are in more populated and more industrious areas than Morgan County.
Still, Pailer hopes to get some sort of tax reduction for seniors.
"We hope to work with the Board to get this through," Pailer said. "We don't want to destroy the school system we've got here. We still love it here, and we want to stay here."
Pailer lives with his wife on a piece of Buckhead property adjacent to his son and daughter-in-law's property, who make their residence in Atlanta and are the Pailer's only relatives in the area.
Pailer, who said he is public-educated himself, has lived in Buckhead for five years after moving from South Alabama.
It was there in the Gulf Coast city of Gulf Shores where Pailer said he got his first taste of political activism.
He lived on a street called Red Clay Road where he said he grew tired and of his wife getting her vehicle stuck in the road. He created a petition to have the road paved and everyone eagerly agreed to support his cause because the roads were in such horrible shape, he said.
When asked if this current, Morgan County attempt at grassroots politics is going to be a little more up hill, Pailer was quick to answer.
"Oh yes," he said. "I'm sure their are people in the county that are definitely against this. Our intention is to work with the Board."