Few enact tax freeze for elderly homeowners

Few enact tax freeze for elderly homeowners

By: AP

NASHVILLE (AP) — Just seven of Tennessee’s 95 counties have enacted a property tax freeze for elderly homeowners that was authorized by voters last year.
A constitutional amendment to allow the freeze was easily approved at the polls last year and the Legislature crafted guidelines for the tax break last session. But only Blount, Bradley, Davidson, Hamblen, Knox, Roane and Wilson counties have approved the freeze.
If approved by local officials, the tax freeze applies to elderly homeowners who earn less than the average income of all residents between the ages of 65 and 74 in their county. If they qualify, they will be exempt from future tax increases on their property.
Some elected officials have expressed concern that the tax freeze could shift more of the tax burden to other residents, and some want to wait for all the kinks to be worked out of the new law.
Seniors in most counties that have approved the freeze have until April 7 to apply for the program.
Bonnie Fertig, an AARP volunteer who lives in Sumner County, said delaying the approval of the tax freeze could cost senior homeowners if property taxes are raised in 2008.
“What we are afraid of is that this will get ahead of itself and some city or county is going to raise taxes and this won’t be in place,” she said.
“I am personally (disturbed) because this impacts me, even though I won’t qualify for it this year,” said Fertig, who turns 60 in a week.
About 2,700 elderly homeowners have applied so far in Nashville, said Metro Trustee Charlie Cardwell. Up to 6,000 may apply by the deadline, he said, through as many as 12,000 could qualify.
Jim Major, Wilson County trustee, said he’s been disappointed with the number of homeowners who have applied there.
Major said 337 homeowners have applied in Wilson County and that up to 800 are expected to sign up by the deadline. Many more would qualify, Major said.
“I wish more people would take advantage of the opportunity,” he said. “It’s designed to help people, and that’s what I want to do.”
Only principle homes can qualify for the program, and a maximum of five acres will be counted toward the freeze. Major improvements made after a tax freeze is approved will be subject to increases.
The property tax freeze is in addition to a previously existing law that gives rebates for low-income seniors who make less than $24,000 a year.
Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com
Published in The Messenger 12.26.07

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