Centerville council promotes proposed changes to senior tax exemption

Telegraph correspondentOctober 15, 2013 

CENTERVILLE -- City Council spent much of its Tuesday work session discussing its attempt to get residents to vote to alter the city’s senior tax exemption.

Council has put forward a plan to change the current 100 percent city property tax exemption for residents 70 and older to one that gives seniors a $50,000 tax break.

The proposal to change the exemption will be before voters on the Nov. 5 ballot. Early voting is now underway.

“The biggest thing is it’s a matter of fairness across the board,” said Councilman Ed Tucker, who introduced the measure after more than two years of on-and-off discussions by council. Council unanimously approved the measure to seek the change.

Tucker and other council members said the change is needed so city services used by all residents, such as police and fire protection, are paid for by all and not just those younger than 70.

Councilman Cameron Andrews said he agreed the change was a matter of fairness, and he was angry it took so long for a change to the exemption to come up for a vote.

Under council’s proposal, instead of paying no city property taxes, those 70 and older would be granted a $50,000 exemption before the standard 40 percent taxable value is applied to their home for city tax purposes.

The owner of a $100,000 home, for example, would pay taxes only on $20,000 of the home’s total value.

Based on the current millage rate of 11.972 mills, the tax on the home would be $239.44.

Council presented a tax exemption calculator that showed, among other things, that the owner of property valued at $500,000 would pay $2,154.96 under the new plan versus nothing under the old.

The owner of a $250,000 property would pay $957.76, the owner of a $70,000 home would pay $95.78 and owners of homes valued at $50,000 and less would pay nothing.

Tucker said the change would accomplish the exemption’s original purpose of offering residents 70 and older a fair tax break while at the same time allowing the city to collect needed revenue and spread the cost of city services fairly among all taxpayers.

“When it first came into being, it was intended to help about eight families stay in their homes, mostly poor widows,” Tucker said. “Now there are 300 to 400 people over 70 in Centerville. Most of them can afford city tax, and they need to pay their fair share for services. Those who really can’t pay, those who the exemption was originally intended to help, are still getting help under the new plan.”

Mayor John Harley said he and council members will meet with residents to explain the new plan. He said he will be at Thursday’s regular senior citizen meeting at City Hall at 11 a.m. to discuss the matter, and he, Tucker and others will be at a meeting in the Eagle Springs neighborhood on Monday. He said that meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the Eagle Springs clubhouse.

In other business, council once again discussed its travel and reimbursement policies for council and certain administrative employees. It instructed City Attorney Rebecca Tydings to add specific language to the policy saying alcohol and tobacco purchases may not be put on city credit cards.

Other items the city has listed as non-allowable reimbursement items may be put on city cards but then must be paid for by officials.

Council also voted to pay Tripp Construction Co. $14,800 to build a storage building on property it has on Margie Drive.

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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