Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bill Aids Camden Property Owners; Plan Would Freeze Tax Assessments

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bill Aids Camden Property Owners; Plan Would Freeze Tax Assessments

Article excerpt

Byline: GORDON JACKSON

WOODBINE -- Property values weren't much of a concern for Rindy Howell until her husband lost his job at Durango-Georgia Paper Co. more than three years ago.

Her husband, Sidney Howell, has had health problems and hasn't found a job that pays even close to the $50,000 a year he was earning at the paper mill.

Now, the Howell family has another concern: rising property values that they say could force them to move out of the city. They say they can't afford to pay the taxes on the home, which has been in Sidney Howell's family for two generations.

"If something isn't done, we're going to be run out of town, out of our own home," Rindy Howell said. "It's all we can do to hang on now. I don't want to sell."

Howell told state Sen. Jeff Chapman she and many of the more than 900 employees who lost their jobs, as well as those who are on fixed incomes, have struggled to pay taxes as their homes increase in value. She persuaded him to introduce legislation in the General Assembly to give some relief to homeowners in the county.

Chapman said he expects that his bill, called a homestead assessment freeze, will be approved by fellow legislators in January. The session begins Monday.

The legislation is similar to a bill approved in 1999 to give Glynn County relief from repeated property reassessments, Chapman said.

The proposal would freeze property assessments if the home remains in the immediate family of an existing homeowner. For example, if someone inherits a home in the county and plans to make it his or her primary residence, the property would not be reassessed.

"If they sell the house, the value rises to the ongoing rate," Chapman said. "If property increases in value because homes of comparable value are selling for more, this will protect you if you haven't made any changes."

However, homeowners would be allowed protection from reassessments on only one home, Chapman said.

St. Marys Mayor-elect Rowland Eskridge said he supports Chapman's bill as a way to protect the city's elderly residents and former employees of Durango-Georgia. …

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