Friday, January 12, 2024

Oconee County Election Board Approves Call For Special Election In May For Vote On County Homestead Exemption Increases

***Daniell, Saxon, Thompson Announce Candidacy***

The Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration voted on Tuesday to call a special election in conjunction with the May 21 General Primary/Nonpartisan Election to allow voters to decide if they want to increase homestead exemptions in the county.

The Board voted to put 10 items on the ballot, four of which remove the current laws and six of which put new laws in place. All 10 must pass for the changes in the exemptions to take effect.

The 10 items will be part of busy ballots for those choosing to vote in the party primaries.

Party ballots could contain local contests for the Board of Commissioners, Board of Education, the county’s constitutional officers, state Senate and House candidates, coroner, and district attorney candidates.

The two parties also can add individual nonbinding questions.

The partisan ballots also will contain nonpartisan elections for two of the Western Judicial Circuit’s four Superior Court Judges and Oconee County Probate Court Judge. The nonpartisan ballots will contain those judicial races as well as the 10 county items on the homestead exemptions.

On Monday, Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell announced that he plans to seek re-election, as did Commissioners Mark Saxon and Mark Thomas. All three are Republicans.

Board of Education Chair Kim Argo and Board Member Michael Ransom said they have not yet decided if they will run again. Board Member Tim Burgess, whose term also is up in December, did not respond to a query about his election intentions. All three also are Republicans

Town Hall And Ballot Items

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners Town Hall Meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. on Jan. 17 will focus on the ballot items for the May 21 special election.

Election Board Meeting 1/9/2024
Chair Jay Hanley, Gregg, Ken Davis, Kirk Shook (L-R)

The meeting will take place at the County Administrative Building,7635 Macon Highway, just north of Watkinsville.

Those ballot items had been featured at the Town Hall Meeting in May as well.

Four of the ballot items have a duplicate, referring first to “Oconee County ad valorem taxes” and then to “Oconee County school district ad valorem taxes” because taxes for county government and for county schools are collected separately.

Most confusing of the ballot items are two that refer to increases in the homestead exemption immediately to $3,000 and in 2035 to $8,000.

Actually, voters will be asked to increase the existing $2,000 exemption to $5,000 immediately and to $10,000 in 2035 because the state-mandated $2,000 homestead exemption remains in place regardless of what voters do, and the $3,000 and $8,000 is added to that base.

If the 10 items are approved, homeowners who turn 75 will get an additional $10,000 property tax exemption in 2025.

And home owners who turn 65 automatically will get a freeze on the assessment of their property, if voters approve all 10 of the items.

Election Board Meeting

Oconee County Director of Elections and Registration Sharon Gregg read each of the 10 items out to the Board of Elections and Registration at the meeting on Tuesday before the Board voted to put them on the ballot.

Gregg also reviewed the upcoming election calendar.

Voters have been able since Dec. 25 to request an absentee ballot for the March 12 presidential primary, and the first day the ballots can be mailed to those who apply is Feb. 12.

The county already has received about 10 requests, Oconee County Assistant Director of Elections and Registration Jennifer Stone told the Board on Tuesday.

Advance voting will be from Feb. 19 to March 8, at the Oconee County Administrative Building, Gregg said.

The last day to register is Feb. 12.

The last day to register for the May 21 General Primary/Nonpartisan Election is April 22.

Other Dates, Reports

Advance voting for the May 21 elections will be from April 29 to May 17, also at the County Administrative Building, Gregg told the Board.

Gregg said she expects to have up to 24 machines available for voting.

The earliest day to request an absentee ballot for the May 21 election is March 4, and ballots will be mailed out to qualified applicants on April 22.

Gregg reported that the county had 30,405 active registered voters at the end of December, and 2,518 inactive registered voters, for a total of 32,923 registered voters.

In her report at the Board meeting in October, Gregg said the county had 30,901 active voters, and 1,849 inactive voters, for a total of 32,750 registered voters.

Gregg reported to the Board on Tuesday that all eight polling places have been rechecked and are American with Disabilities Act compliant and meet the electrical requirements for the voting machines and printers.


Post 4 Commissioner Mark Saxon announced his candidacy on Monday morning and was followed that day by announcements by Post 1 Commissioner Mark Thomas and Commission Chair John Daniell.

Submitted Photo

Saxon has served on the Board since 2013. Thomas has been on the Board of Commissioners since 2017.

Daniell has served as Commission chair since 2017, but he had been Post 2 Commissioner before running for the Chair in 2016. He was first elected to the Board of Commissioners in 2008.

Submitted Photo

The November ballot this year will include elections for the chair of the Oconee County Board of Education as well as for Post 4 and Post 5.

I asked Board Chair Argo, as well as Post 4 Member Burgess and Post 5 Ransom via email messages on Monday evening if each had decided whether to seek re-election.

“Qualifying isn’t until early March,” Argo wrote. “I will consult my family first and then make a decision. It is an honor to serve on the board of Oconee County Schools.”

Ransom wrote: “I have not made a definite decision yet. I know time is getting short and qualification will be here before we know it.”

Burgess did not respond.

Qualifications, Other Announcements

Qualifications for the May 21 elections begin at 9 a.m. on March 4 and continue through noon on March 8.

Official County Photo
Those qualifications are held at the Office of Elections and Registration in the Oconee County Administrative Building.

Included are the Sheriff, Clerk of Courts, Tax Commissioner, and Coroner qualifications.
Qualifications for the District Attorney, Superior Court judges, and legislative races take place in the Secretary of State Office in Atlanta.

District 120 Rep. Houston Gaines and District 121 Rep. Marcus Wiedower told WGAU Host Tim Bryant in a broadcast interview on Nov. 21 that they intended to run for re-election. 

Gaines represents Bogart and Marswood Hall precincts in Oconee County, and Wiedower represents the remaining six precincts in the county. Both are Republicans.

The Congressional District 10 election also will be on the May ballot. Republican Mike Collins is the incumbent.

Kalke Yalamanchili has announced that he plans to run as an independent for the District Attorney position.

To get his name on the ballot in November, he must obtain signatures on a petition from voters in Oconee and Clarke counties. The first day to circulate nominating petitions was Jan. 11.

Qualification Fees

The Board of Commissioners set qualification fees for the local offices at its meeting on Jan. 2.

They range from a high of $3,161.31 for candidates for the Chair of the Board of Commissioner to $54 for candidates seeking one of the three Board of Education positions that will be on the ballot.

County Attorney Daniel Haygood explained at the meeting that the fees are set by law based on calculation of 3 percent of the base salary of the office holder.

The base salary of the Chair of the Board of Commissioners is $105,376, while the base fee for the Board of Education members is $1,800.

The base fee for the four Board of Commission posts is $25,178.


The video below is of the Jan. 9 meeting of the Board of Elections and Registration.

The first item on the agenda was the call for the special election.

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