If you're an Atlanta homeowner, this might sound familiar: You pay high property taxes, yet don't feel adequately protected by the city's short-staffed and overworked police force. So you cough up extra cash for your neighborhood's private security patrol. You have to pay extra for your safety, but it is what it is.
A state lawmaker thinks he might be able to ease that financial burden.
State Rep. Rashad Taylor, D-Atlanta, has introduced legislation that would offer an annual income tax credit of up to $1,200 to single-family homeowners who participate in their neighborhood's private security patrol.
Taylor says the bill could benefit homeowners throughout the city and across the state who live in areas that lack adequate police coverage thanks to public safety cutbacks or coverage gaps.
"I thought this would be a good way to give those homeowners some relief," Taylor told CL. "Those who have to supplement what their government should be doing, they ought to be given a break on their taxes for that."
Midtown resident Peggy Denby, president of the Midtown Ponce Security Alliance, says she'd support the idea. Currently, she says, Midtown residents who pay for private security are voluntarily being double-taxed.
"We're not paying it because we want to," Denby says. "We do it in order to keep our neighborhoods safe. And if we had enough police in Atlanta, we'd dissolve our force immediately."
Denby says MPSA members who live in single-family homes pay $275 a year for the security service. Under Taylor's bill, they'd be eligible for an income tax credit up to that amount.
Taylor's aware that, at a time when state lawmakers are cutting programs to try and balance Georgia's budget, he might receive some pushback about his proposal. He's currently waiting for a report from the Department of Audits to determine the measure's possible financial impact. Budget woes aside, it would be entertaining political theater to see the lawmaker's colleagues whose constituents could also benefit from the bill, as it'd be applicable across the state potentially bellyache about the legislation while they defend special tax breaks and credits for their pet projects.
Taylor's legislation is one of several measures aimed at tackling the city's crime problem. On Monday, the Atlanta City Council unanimously voted in favor of asking Gold Dome lawmakers to push for a one-cent sales tax hike on the 2011 ballot. If approved by voters, the revenue generated would pay for fire and police equipment and facilities that Councilman Michael Julian Bond, the city lawmaker who's pushing the measure, says the city desperately needs. Mayor Kasim Reed still has to sign off on the proposal.
(Photo by Joeff Davis)
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