Debate today on homestead tax increase

Published 6:00 am Monday, February 12, 2001

A bill to give senior citizens and disabled residents a biggertax break via homestead exemption is expected to come up for floordebate Monday afternoon in the House of Representatives.

Dist. 53 Rep. Bobby Moak said the bill passed out of committeeThursday and was on the House calendar for discussion today. Thebill increases the special homestead exemption amount from $60,000to $75,000.

“It goes into effect after counties complete reappraisal duringthis four-year period,” Moak said.

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Moak said reappraisals are mandated every four years.

He said some counties, like Pike and Franklin, had completedreappraisals and residents were seeing the effects. Lincoln Countyis in the process of its reappraisal.

Under the special homestead exemption, seniors and the disabledcurrently are exempt from property taxes on up to $60,000 of theassessed value, and they pay taxes on any value over that amount.The pending legislation would raise that to $75,000.

Before reappraisal, some residents did not have to pay taxesbecause their property values were below the exemption threshold.After the reappraisal, their values were raised and the residentshad to pay taxes, some for the first time in years.

“This reappraisal is hitting a lot of folks hard,” Moak said.”This bill gets them back close to where they were before.”

Moak said dealing with special homestead exemption is a”delicate balance.” While wanting to give seniors a break, he saidit can’t be raised too much because counties would lose revenue andwould have to raise property taxes on others to make up thedifference.

Moak expected the bill to pass and then be sent to the Senate.He knew of no similar homestead exemption bill there.

“We’re kind of taking the lead on this,” Moak said.

In other legislative activity, Dist. 92 Rep. Dr. Jim Barnettsaid the state is still running about $100 million behindprojections on revenue collections.

“We are trying every way we can to move money around soeducation will not be hurt,” Barnett said.

Barnett, chairman of community college appropriations, said hehad found about $8 million to help offset approximately $38 millionin cuts to state community and junior colleges. The money, from aworkers compensation interest fund, would be directed towardworkforce training efforts.

“That’s going to help some,” Barnett said.

On a lower education level, Barnett dismissed the idea ofschools going to a four-day week in the wake of looming budgetreductions.

“You can just forget about that. That messes people’s lives up,”he said, mentioning the impact it would have on daycare and otheraspects of children being out of school.

Barnett said the House approved a bill to exempt lawn irrigationsystems from being required to have backflow prevention systems.The backflow measure is designed to prevent chemicals frompotentially flowing back into community water systems.

“That thing was getting to cost a lot of people a lot of money,”Barnett said.

With last week’s deadline for action on general billsoriginating in the House’s and Senate’s own chambers, Barnettexpected a busy week ahead as the chambers start to exchangelegislation.

Both chambers have been working on bills to increase pay forsome county officials.

A House-passed bill would increase tax assessors and collectorspay to between $51,910 and $73,000, depending on county size, witha person handing both duties getting a $10,000 bonus, Barnett said.A Senate bill includes supervisors and other county officials.

“We haven’t seen the Senate bill yet,” Barnett said.