County to consider raising senior exemptions

ELIZABETHTOWN The Essex County board of supervisors is considering raising the property tax exemption for senior citizens. At the Ways and Meaning Committee meeting Jan. 25, Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava, R - Moriah, proposed raising the income eligibility for the senior property exemption from $22,000 to $25,000. Under the senior exemption, property owners 65 years and older earning less than the threshold figure are offered a tax break. The tax break is for half of their propertys assessed value. Scozzafava said increases in the cost of living are hitting seniors hard, and said the county should make an effort to help alleviate the burden. Times are very difficult right now, so that 50 percent decrease on their property tax could make a substantial savings, said Scozzafava. Scozzafava, who also chairs the finance committee, said there would be a minor impact on the property tax rate for the rest of the county. Any time that you grant an exemption, someone picks up that difference. I think it's an exemption that is deserved, and will benefit a number of people that would otherwise face some very dire circumstances, said Scozzafava. Supervisor Noel Merrihew, R - Elizabethtown, requested information on who would receive the exemption, stating he wanted to know the full implications of raising the threshold. The information will be presented to supervisors during the full board meeting Feb. 4. To go into effect in time for 2009s tax bills, the county would have to approve a resolution by March 1. The senior tax exemption was last raised in 2005, from $16,500. Scozzafava said he hoped people who were currently eligible would take advantage of the exemption. There's probably some people out there that don't realize it exists at the current $22,000 level. We need to make people aware of it, said Scozzafava.

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