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April 2--  Some school boards in low wealth areas of Georgia will have to increase property taxes by the end of the decade to qualify for state equalization funds.

House Bill 824 passed the legislature in the late hours of the just-ended legislative session.  It requires school boards to have a tax rate of at least 12 mils starting in 2015 and increase it to 14 mils by 2019.

State Representative Greg Morris of Vidalia voted against the measure which was sponsored in the Senate by Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons.

"Originally 12 mils was the minimum required to participate in equalization and this money is very important to our local schools. The revised bill raised that and I don't see how you can around raising property taxes and I'm not going to vote for anything that I believe or know will raise ad valorem taxes," Morris said.

School systems in Toombs, Truetlen and Montgomery counties currently have tax rates in the 11 to 12 mils range.  The Vidalia school system tax rate is already 15 mils and is capped at that level.

Morris is happy that the legislature passed a new law to start phasing out property taxes on vehicles even though they will be replaced by an upfront sales tax and title transfer tax at the time of purchase.

"What I like about the change is that we eliminate taxing property so you don't have to rent your vehicle from the government every year. Secondly, it's a tax you can make a decision on controlling.  If you don't want to pay a tax on your vehicle, you don't buy a new one.  You choose," he says.