Aldermen Discuss Proposed Senior Property Tax Credit

They say they want more information before making a decisions.

 

Frederick, Md (KM) Some additional information is needed by the Board of Aldermen before the city of Frederick can enact a supplement to the state’s homeowners property tax credit for seniors. Elected officials discussed that program on Wednesday during their workshop.

If it’s approved, it would be add to the state’s tax credit program. Participants would have to be¬† 65 years of age or older, and have a combined gross income of $55,000 or less.

According to the documents presented by city staff, the average assessment in Frederick is $238,00, and the average city tax is $1,740. A 25% credit equals $157,905 to $1,156,665, assuming all in the city who are eligible, about 2,659, participate. If the program is enacted, it would begin on July 1st, 2019, when the fiscal year 2020 budget takes effect.

Some elected officials had concerns about the program, and its fiscal impact on the city. “Whose opposed to a senior tax credit? Nobody’s opposed to that. But I think we have to be really fiscally responsible in looking at committing ourselves to something that could potentially not be sustainable,” said Alderwoman Kelly Russell.

She also said why just the senior population when it comes to tax credits when non-seniors are also living on fixed incomes.. “I’m not saying that this is not a good thing to do,” Russell said. “I need to understand why this is the most important group to invest 2,3,4,$500,000 in as opposed to something else.”

Alderman Ben MacShane wondered if the city had options when it comes to implementing the program, or does it need to follow the state’s guidelines. “Years of residence in the property; limiting it to properties who have seen their assessment increase by a certain percentage over recent years,” he says. “Are we actually able to use those parameters and still have this processed by SDAT or not? Because that really changes whether these are really options.” SDAT is the State Department of Assessments and Taxation.

Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak spoke strongly in favor of the tax credit for seniors. “I want to help provide something to help, in my mind, seniors age in place,” she said.

And Alderman Roger Wilson says this program will help the most vulnerable senior citizens in the population. “Many of them are on fixed incomes. They only have their Social Security that is available to them for their income. They don’t have a 401k plan,” he said. “These are the individuals we are trying to help with this senior tax program.” He says about 300 Frederick city residents are enrolled in the state’s senior property tax program through the county.

The Aldermen also heard from the public about this program. Melanie Cox is President of the Advocates for the Aging. She noted that sometimes seniors have to move when they can’t stay in a place that has been their home for many years. “With relocation, especially if you have a frail senior who has to relocate, the death rate goes up significantly within the first 18-months of that,” she said. “If they have to move, we are putting them at increased fiscal risk and mental risk because the effects of depression are tremendous.”

Mayor Michael O’Connor realized that the program itself was not ready to move forward to a public hearing and eventually adoption. He noted that the Aldermen wanted more information on demographics, home ownership¬† versus renting, and what would it cost if the city adopted its own program. They also wanted to know what senior programs are available at the Frederick Community Action Agency.

It’s expected to come back for a future workshop.

The Mayor and Board were told that if they want to adopt this program, it needs to be in place by September 1st in order for seniors to apply before the beginning of fiscal year 2020 on July 1st, 2019.

 

By Kevin McManus