Supervisors had recently proposed increasing the income limit for eligibility by $1,000 annually but had asked Livesay what the impact would be before implementing the change. Livesay said his office has no means of knowing what the impact of the increase in income limits would have and then recommended the maximum tax relief amount of $150 be raised to $200. He noted that the $150 limit has been in effect since 1990, and that in the intervening years the county has conducted three reassessments with land and improvement values increasing each time.
"This is for the fixed-income group, and if anybody needs a break, they need a break," said Livesay.
The commissioner also requested that the filing deadline for the tax relief application be changed from July 1 to May 1 of each year due to a recent change in the due dates for tax payments to Oct. 31.
According to the ordinance, a real estate tax exemption is provided for qualified property owners who are 65 years of age or older or permanently and totally disabled. Persons qualifying for exemption are deemed to be bearing an extraordinary real estate tax burden in relation to their income and financial worth.
With the change, qualified persons with an income of $14,000 or less annually will be exempt from 100 percent of their tax. Those with incomes between $14,001 and $16,000 will be exempt from 75 percent of their tax, and those with incomes up to $18,000 can be exempted from 50 percent of their tax. Those with incomes between $18,001 and $20,500 can be exempted from 25 percent of their tax.
If taxes are not paid in full by Oct. 31, the amount of relief will be withdrawn, and the taxpayer will be responsible for the full amount of real estate taxes.
According to the ordinance, exemption shall be granted to persons subject to the following provisions:
â€¢The title of the property for which exemption is claimed is held, or partially held, on Jan. 1 of the taxable year by the person claiming exemption.
â€¢The head of the household occupying the dwelling and owning title, or partial title, thereto is determined to be 65 years old or older or permanently and totally disabled on Dec. 31 of the year immediately preceding the taxable year.
â€¢The gross combined income of the owner during the year immediately preceding the taxable year shall not exceed $20,500. Gross combined income shall include income from all sources of the owner and of the owner's relatives living in the dwelling for which exemption is claimed, excluding the first $2,000 of the relative's income. Any form of public welfare assistance (other than medical care for the medically indigent) must be listed as income.
â€¢The total combined financial worth of the owner, as of Dec. 31 of the year immediately preceding the taxable year, shall not exceed $70,000. Total financial worth shall include the value of all assets, including equitable interests, of the owner and the owner's relatives living in the dwelling for which exemption is claimed, and shall exclude the fair market value of the dwelling and the land upon which it is situated, not exceeding one acre, for which the exemption is claimed.