Villa Rica residents approved a new tax exemption for senior citizens Tuesday night, and three incumbent council members were returned to their seats.
Villa Rica voters in all five wards, including that portion of the city in Douglas County, overwhelmingly approved a property tax exemption for senior citizens during Tuesday night's municipal election.
Voters on the Carroll County side of the city approved the measure by 93 percent of the vote, or 418 votes in favor to 30 votes opposed, according to results posted by the Carroll County Board of Elections and Registration.
Douglas County elections officials reported that the referendum was approved with 96.37 percent of the votes cast in that county, or 345 votes in favor to 13 votes opposed.
The senior tax exemption replaces a city ordinance that was in place for 12 years, but declared void last year. The new exemption, which will be in place for the 2018 tax year, allows property owners aged 65 or more to claim an $8,000 exemption on the taxable value of their property.
Also in Villa Rica, three incumbent council members were re-elected to their seats, one of them unopposed.
In Ward 3, incumbent Leslie McPherson won re-election over her opponent Bernice Brooks. McPherson won 70.8 percent of the vote to Brooks' 29 percent showing, or by a total of 163 votes to Brooks' tally of 67 votes.
In Ward 5, a portion of which is in Douglas County, incumbent Danny Carter defeated his challenger, Larry Cohrs. Carter won 59.8 percent of all votes cast in both counties, while Cohrs won 37.6 percent of the total votes cast.
In Carroll County, Carter received 55 votes to Cohrs' tally of 24, while in Douglas County, Cohrs received 20 votes to Carter's 15 votes. There were three write-in votes cast in Carroll County.
Ward 4 Councilman Gil McDougal was also re-elected. He had no opposition in the race, and had won the seat in a special election last year to complete the term of former Councilman Mike Williamson.
Villa Rica officials had fretted over the fate of the senior tax exemption, which was meant to replace a city ordinance that was declared void.
The ordinance had provided a tax exemption for seniors aged 65 or older based on their income. But while Douglas tax officials continued to apply the income standard, officials in Carroll County, over time, began to apply it to all seniors.
Additionally, the ordinance was declared void because such tax exemptions are supposed to be approved by referenda.
Although city officials and its legislative delegation scrambled to get a replacement in place in time for this tax year, they could not do so.
As a consequence, many senior citizens who had previously been able to declare an exemption on their property taxes were unable to during this tax year, creating numerous complaints to city and Carroll County tax officials.