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Hamilton Co. Commission discusses options to reduce impact of tax increase on the elderly

As Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger pushes his plan that would mean most homeowners would pay more in property taxes, commissioners are talking about possibilities to provide some relief to elderly residents. (Image: WTVC)

As Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger pushes his plan that would mean most homeowners would pay more in property taxes, commissioners are talking about possibilities to provide some relief to elderly residents.

On Wednesday, the commission discussed senior tax freeze plan or a senior tax relief plan.

Under the tax freeze, seniors would be locked in at the property tax rate that they pay in 2017.

Qualifications for the tax freeze plan include:

  • Seniors 65-years-old and older on or before December 31st
  • Must make $38,720 or less for 2017
  • Must own and use the property you are applying as your primary residence (limited to 5 acres)

The tax relief, however, does not lock the current tax rate, but instead is a credit on taxes based on a level set by the state.

The tax relief plan benefits...

  • Seniors 65-years-old and older on or before December 31st
  • Residents who were disabled at any age
  • Disabled veterans or widows of disabled veterans at any age (enhanced benefit)
  • Those who make $29,180 or less for 2017
  • Residents who own and use the property which you are applying as your primary residence

If the senior tax freeze plan were implemented, commissioners say there would be no immediate benefit to qualifying taxpayers in the 2017 tax year, and they would not see savings if the mayor's tax proposal is implemented. Taxpayers would not see savings until the next tax increase.

If this passes, commissioners say qualifying taxpayers would see an immediate benefit.

If either the senior tax freeze or tax relief plans are approved, the commission says there will be a shift of the tax burden from qualifying taxpayers to non-qualifying taxpayers.

Commissioner Tim Boyd says that he wanted to postpone the vote on the plan from September 6th to September 20th to allow more time for public comment.

We spoke with homeowner Everlena Holmes. She's proud of her Glenwood neighborhood, but worried about what could happen there if residents are hit with higher property taxes.

"So many people are losing their property because they're unable to pay the taxes," Holmes said.

She's a senior citizen living on a fixed income. Part of her money goes to her family, some of it goes to taking care of health issues like hypertension, and she also needs to budget for home repairs including a new roof.

"When you get to be a senior, you're aging as you're taking care of aging property so sometimes you have to make a decision between your health or the health of the house."

Everlena supports tax money going to schools, but she also says increases are tough.

"If you keep getting these surprises like 10 percent increase on county property tax then you have to make a lot of adjustments along the way because a 10 percent increase can be devastating to some families."

Commissioner Randy Fairbanks says he wants to provide help for seniors who can't afford a tax increase.

"Surely we wouldn't want seniors to have to pay a few more taxes and do without some medicine or food to be able to pay those taxes," Fairbanks said. "I don't want to put an undue burden on them that they really just cannot handle."

Read more details about the proposed tax plans below:


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