A referendum to give senior citizens in Villa Rica a partial exemption on their property taxes is at stake in Tuesday’s city election, and voters in three cities will determine city council races.

Temple voters will be electing a new mayor. There are also uncontested races on the ballot.

Early voting for the municipal elections ends on Friday, Nov. 3.

On the ballot in Villa Rica are two council seats, as well as a referendum that, if approved, would allow property owners aged 65 or higher an $8,000 homestead exemption on their city taxes bills.

In two Carrollton City Council races, incumbent and Mayor Pro-Tem Gerald Byrd is facing a challenge from Jacqueline Bridges, and incumbent Roy Wojcik is running against Wes Phillips.

In Temple, two council seats, as well as the office of mayor are up for election. The campaign in that city has been unusual, because two of the six people who entered the race in August have since faced challenges to their qualifications to hold office. One of those candidates withdrew from the race, while the name of the second remains on the ballot although the county elections board has ruled him ineligible.

In Villa Rica, Councilwoman Leslie McPherson is seeking re-election to her Ward 3 seat, vying with Bernice Brooks for that post. In Ward 5, incumbent Councilman Danny Carter is competing against Larry Cohrs. In the Ward 4 race, incumbent Gil McDougal is running unopposed. He won the seat in a special election last year to complete the term of former Councilman Mike Williamson.

Only voters living in those wards may vote for the council candidates, but voters in all five Villa Rica wards will be able to vote on the senior tax exemption.

The senior tax exemption is meant to replace a city ordinance that was in place for 12 years. It would allow property owners aged 65 or more to claim an $8,000 exemption on the taxable value of their property.

The old city ordinance was declared void because it was being applied differently in Carroll than in Douglas County. The ordinance was originally meant to apply only to low-income seniors, and while Douglas tax officials continued to apply that income standard, officials in Carroll County 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.

In Temple, there will be two new faces at the city council table after next week’s election. Mayor Lester Harmon has chosen not to seek re-election. Current Ward 1 Councilwoman Penny Ransom has also chosen to step aside, leaving Howard Walden as the only incumbent seeking re-election to the five-member council.

Michael C. Johnson, a former teacher at Temple High School, is seeking the mayoral job. Gerald Powell, a self-employed contractor, challenged him when qualifications opened in August.

However, Powell’s qualifications to hold the post were challenged earlier this month, due to questions surrounding a prior marijuana conviction. On Oct. 25, the Carroll County Board of Elections ruled that Powell was ineligible to run, following a formal hearing of those allegations.

Powell’s name remains on the ballot, because the hearing took place after state contractors prepared the document. Also, Powell has 10 calendar days to appeal the election board’s decision, a window that closes on Saturday, three days before the vote.

If Powell does not file an appeal, then the board’s disqualification decision will mean that any votes that are cast on his behalf on Tuesday will not count.

In September, the qualifications of another candidate were challenged. Avanti Helton had sought the Ward 1 seat now held by Ransom, as did former Ward 1 Councilwoman Terron Bivins.

Helton withdrew from the race before a formal hearing into that challenge could take place, leaving Bivins as the sole candidate for the post.

The only contested race remaining in the city is for the Ward 2 post now held by Howard Walden. He faces Jason Bice, an Atlanta attorney who has lived many years in the Temple area. Bice is also the son-in-law of Mayor Harmon.


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