|A property tax freeze for Rutherford County senior citizens is getting closer to becoming a reality.
The county’s Steering and Budget committees both recommended implementing the tax freeze at meetings last week, and the county commission will weigh in on the subject when it meets Thursday night.
The resolution will freeze property taxes for the approximately 4,000 seniors who make less than the county’s median income of $35,200 per year.
As written the resolution sets this year, after the most recent property tax increase, as the base year. So seniors will not see any benefit from the freeze until the county’s property tax is raised again.
Seniors must apply for the freeze on a yearly basis with the county trustee office. If one year is missed, they must reapply the following year, which may change the base tax rate.
Should the county raise property taxes again in the near future, the state comptroller estimates $22,567 must be made up for every additional penny of the property tax, because of qualifying seniors paying a lower rate, said Lisa Nolen, county budget director.
Even with the property tax freeze, the county has other two relief programs that will continue to help low-income seniors pay property taxes, Budget Committee Chairwoman Joyce Ealy explained.
The county started a property tax relief program in 1973 where qualifying low-income seniors are given an allowance of state and county dollars to offset the cost of property taxes on the first $25,000 of assessed value.
To qualify, county residents 65 years or older must make $24,790 or less and own their home.
Since 2003, the county has contributed $2 for every $1 the state contributes to the relief program. In fiscal year 2007, the county paid $268,943 for the tax relief programs, which helped around 950 low-income seniors pay property taxes.
“We also amended the tax relief program to continue the 2-for-1 match but capped at $306,” Ealy said, which is the county’s portion. The state will contribute $153.
“This will continue for the duration of the program or until the commission deems otherwise,” Ealy continued.
In November 2006, voters across the state approved plans to relieve some pressure from seniors’ wallets by freezing property taxes.
For as long as they qualify for the program, qualifying senior homeowners’ property taxes will not increase if there is a property tax rate increase in the future.
Michelle Willard can be contacted at 615-869-0816 or email@example.com.