A council member who plans tonight to bring up the idea of eliminating the homestead exemption for senior citizens said that his proposal is what’s “fair” for other residents in .
“This is just a really small, specific group of people given a special deal that arguably needs it less than a lot of other people,” Bill Bryan said.
The councilman said he’s met younger residents who would love to be on fixed incomes as many senior citizens are.
“They don’t know if they’ll have income the next month,” Bryan said.
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However, Council member Glen Cummins said that many senior citizens are on very fixed and low incomes.
“They got (their homes) paid off, and all of a sudden you decide to start taxing them,” Cummins said. “It could have a very serious impact on whether or not they can buy medications because their incomes are severely limited.”
In Canton, the first $112,000 of assessed value is exempt, and assessed value is 40 percent of the property’s appraisal. That means that senior citizens who own homes up to $280,000 in value pay no property taxes, Bryan said.
For those with homes valued at more than $280,000, the same formula applies. A senior citizen with a home appraised at $300,000 would pay 0.0068 mills on $20,000 of value times 40 percent, he said. The average value of an exempted house in Canton is $170,000, which would put property taxes at $450 a year.
Bryan said he’s heard numerous senior citizens say they based their decisions to move to Canton on the senior homestead exemption.
“I’ve had people living in $200,000, $300,000 and $400,000 homes tell me they wouldn’t have bought their homes if they had known they had to pay property taxes in the city of Canton,” Bryan said. “I’m just trying to do what’s right by everybody. My job is to represent all of the taxpayers, not just a very specific group.”
The councilman said he’s received seven to eight emails opposing his proposal.
“They’re saying things like, ‘You’re going to drive the seniors away from buying in Canton. We’re going to sell our house and move away,’ ” he said.
According to the proposal, property taxes fund city services such as and protection; parks and recreation; for roads, bridges and sidewalks; the and Community Center; and special events. Residents exempted from property taxes get those services for free, Bryan said.
“I can’t believe everybody’s making such a huge fuss about that,” Bryan said. “They’ve gotten services for free all this time. No one has produced any documentation or paperwork telling me they have gotten this deal. You know, we’ll give you free fire and police forever. It’s an unfair situation.”
Cummins said he likely will second a motion should Bryan make one to give him the ability to begin a discussion.
“I don’t know what his intent is, whether his intent is to discuss it or to vote on it,” Cummins said.
Cummins said that, based on the information he has, his vote at this point would be against the proposal.
“He’s coming arbitrarily out with a statement with no information that I’m aware of with how many people it would impact or how it would impact the community,” Cummins said. “Before I’d even want to look at it, you need to have thorough documented facts. As it now stands, it’s just a wild thrown out idea.”
Council member Hooky Huffman said he doesn’t think the proposal will go anywhere in its current form.
“It was very blunt, very cut and dry,” Huffman said. “He just wanted to eliminate it, period. I just don’t think a total elimination will gain any ground at all. Now, if you want to alter it somewhat like Social Security where it’s graduated up and grandfathers in (those currently exempted) or reducing the exemption amount, he could do something that might strike some interest in some of the council members.”
Bryan said he also plans to introduce a proposal that would reduce the city’s to mirror rates, which are approximately $20 less than the city’s.