CENTERVILLE -- Voters will decide in November whether they want to keep the citys 100 percent property tax exemption for senior citizens or change the exemption so that those 70 and above are taxed on the value of their home above $50,000.
Home values will be based on county assessment figures.
City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to put the matter before residents for a vote in Novembers general election. If it passes, Centerville City Attorney Rebecca Tydings said the tax on a percentage of the value of seniors' homes will go into effect January 1, 2014, but will not be charged until the end of 2014.
She said that would give seniors time to plan for the new tax.
Between now and November, advocates for and against the change will have a chance to make their case to residents. However, on Tuesday all who spoke, both council members and those in the audience, were in favor of the change.
Council has been discussing the senior exemption with an eye toward changing it for several years. In recent months it has kept the matter on the agenda, and in March Mayor John Harley said he wanted council members to decide their intentions by last nights meeting.
City officials brought the tax exemption into question in light of the economic squeeze the city is under and the fact that, according to Councilman Ed Tucker, the city currently loses about $200,000 a year in revenue because of the exemption.
Harley and council have kept at the forefront the argument that services in the growing community for seniors -- especially police and fire protection -- are unfairly being paid for by those under 70.
While original council discussions centered on possibly doing away with the exemption entirely, Councilman Randall Wright suggested last month that seniors should pay tax on values of their homes over $100,000. Tuesday, Wright said after his own study of figures he felt paying tax on value over $50,000 was the best move and one that would be fair to seniors in need and allow the city to increase tax receipts and take the burden of paying for services for seniors off the backs of those under 70.
Tucker made the motion for the measure, which was heartily seconded simultaneously by Councilmen Cameron Andrews and Jonathan Nichols.
Harley said he was pleased with the decision, which he said was an important one for the city.
Harley allowed public comment on the measure from the audience.
Centerville resident Dave Bumpus commended council on the citys financial efficiency and said in recent weeks he had carefully gone through the citys financial records. He applauded bringing the exemption change before the public but added in light of the possible vote in November to alter the exemption, council should not consider raising sewer and water fees, which are separate and self-sustaining apart from the citys general fund. He said funds created if the exemption is altered should be used for equipment and personnel needs in the citys fire and police departments.
A second resident, Richard Beladino, echoed the comments in favor of a change to the senior exemption as proposed by council. He agreed funds should go to police and fire needs and said according to his research, the change would bring about $140,000 added dollars to the city. He specifically asked Tucker if that was correct. Tucker acknowledged the figure was probably more or less accurate.
Beladino also said if voters pass the measure, council should not consider an increase in the citys millage rate for the foreseeable future.
In other matters:
Council completed and approved paperwork to allow it to enter into long-term construction financing to build a new law enforcement center, which will be paid for through 2012 special purpose local option sales tax receipts. Tydings said closing on the arrangements will be at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday with groundbreaking for the facility next door to City Hall on Church Street taking place at 11:30 a.m.
Sgt. Scott Ferguson was named Centervilles police officer of the year. Police Chief Sidney Andrews said Ferguson has served Centerville since 2011 and prior to that served the Houston County Sheriffs Office for eight years. He also has served as a trainer for Iraqi police officers.
Contact Michael W. Pannell at email@example.com.