State Rep. Beth Beskin
State Rep. Beth Beskin

After a Buckhead legislator told a group of north Atlanta parents of her proposal to give senior citizens a break on school property taxes, she found herself confronting strong, vocal opposition from a group of north Atlanta parents.

“I’ve heard loud and clear that I don’t think anyone in this room thinks a senior citizens tax exemption is a good idea, except me,” District 54 Republican Rep. Beth Beskin said after describing her tax-cut plan to about 16 people attending the Feb. 23 meeting of the North Atlanta Parents for Public Schools.

Beskin said that in order to compete with surrounding communities that already offer such a tax break, Atlanta should eliminate school property taxes for residents older than 65.

She said she thought the proposal would be good for the city because it would allow some older Atlantans to stay in their homes rather than to sell and move to the suburbs to avoid school property taxes. “I think it would benefit the city by allowing our seniors to age in place,” she said.

Beskin said she wants to sponsor legislation creating the tax cut for seniors, but so far has not found enough co-sponsors in the Atlanta delegation to have it introduced in the General Assembly. She needs five more co-sponsors for the bill, she said.

Her plan has drawn opposition from school officials, she said. Various school officials have estimated the proposal could cost the district from $23 million a year to $115 million to $118 million over five years, she said.

But resident Gordon Benedict was among several of the parents in the meeting who opposed the idea of taking away tax money from the school system. “It’s just not the right time right now,” he said.

Parent Lisa Dwyer saw the plan “as another hit in the stomach of the public school kids in Atlanta.”

“At a time we are trying to turn things around … we are being told to take one more hit,” she said