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Unger to hold senior forum

August 11, 2005|by CANDICE BOSLEY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Their stories, John Unger believes, are sad and becoming too common.

Retirees and senior citizens are finding it harder to live in the Eastern Panhandle because of a high cost of living, including increasing tax assessments, said Unger, D-Berkeley.

To address the concerns, Unger is holding an event he described as a rally/forum Friday at the Quality Inn in Martinsburg, starting at 2 p.m. The hotel is on Edwin Miller Boulevard.

Unger said he decided to hold the forum after many seniors approached him and shared their stories at his booth at the Berkeley County Youth Fair last week.

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Three topics to be discussed during the forum are cost of living, the homestead exemption and eminent domain.

Unger said he believes the homestead exemption should be doubled from $20,000 to $40,000.

Or, he said, the state could look at a system such as the one in California, where real estate assessments are frozen once residents reach a certain age.

When real estate taxes increase yearly, those on a fixed income sometimes have to cut their spending in other ways, including for groceries and medicine, Unger said.

The community loses if seniors move to areas where the cost of living is not so high.

"A lot of these seniors that have retired continue volunteering in our community," Unger said.

The final topic of discussion, eminent domain, has been prominent lately because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that authorizes local governments to seize private property for economic development.

Unger said he is working with attorneys to draft legislation to prevent that from happening in West Virginia. Older residents could be especially susceptible since they might not have the resources to fight the government, Unger said.

Lately, there's been a lot of talk about addressing the needs of certain residents, including state employees. Seniors, however, rarely are in the limelight.

"I think that's the group that we haven't talked about," Unger said.




If you go ...


What: Forum to address cost of living and other related concerns of senior citizens and retirees

When: Friday, 2 p.m.

Where: Quality Inn, Edwin Miller Boulevard, Martinsburg, W.Va.

Organized by state Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley

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