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New age being considered for county tax relief for low-income seniors

Change would increase amount of help available to 200 seniors between 65 and 70

March 23, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

The minimum age for tax relief for low-income seniors would be lowered from 70 to 65 under a proposed change under consideration by Washington County officials.

The change would increase the amount of tax relief available to about 200 seniors between 65 and 70 and make three households eligible for relief that received none before, County Treasurer Todd Hershey said Wednesday.

The change would cost the county about $12,000 a year, bringing the total county relief under the program to about $103,000, Hershey told the Washington County Commissioners during a  meeting Tuesday.

The commissioners reached a consensus in favor of the change and agreed to vote on it at a future meeting, after a resolution has been drafted.

"I think it's a pretty inexpensive venture that would make a very big gesture to our community," Commissioner William B. McKinley said.

Commissioners Ruth Anne Callaham and Jeffrey A. Cline also spoke in favor of the change.

"I would like to see the extra relief for a population of our county that probably needs help," Cline said.

The age change would apply to a new tax relief measure Washington County began last year as a supplement to the state's Homeowners' Tax Credit Program.

Under the county's supplement, qualifying seniors whose income is $12,000 or less do not have to pay any county property tax, while those with incomes between $12,000 and $60,000 see their county property taxes capped at a maximum amount, based on income.

Ed Wurmb, founder of the Washington County Senior Coalition, said Wednesday that lowering the age was a "good step" toward helping seniors who have gone without cost-of-living adjustments in their Social Security income for two years.

"I think the goal should be to eliminate property tax for seniors, and this is one step towards that goal," Wurmb said.

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