Property tax break eliminated by state budget

LISBON – A five-year-old automatic property tax break for all elderly and disabled homeowners has been eliminated as part of the new state budget passed by the Ohio General Assembly.

Those who turn 65 or are disabled will not be able to earn more than $30,000 per year and receive the Homestead Exemption, which exempts $25,000 of the market value of their home from property taxes.

Columbiana County Auditor Nancy Milliken said the change applies only to the newly eligible, and those currently receiving the exemption will continue, regardless of their income.

The property tax exemption for the elderly and disabled has been in place for years but those earning above a certain income level were disqualified from participating. That changed in 2008, when the legislature agreed to eliminate the income requirement, which was $26,000 at the time.

The exemption was expected to save the average property owner $300 to $400 a year and was funded with $5 billion the state of Ohio received for selling its share of a lawsuit settlement reached from suing tobacco companies. Expansion of the exemption resulted in an additional 5,800 county property owners signing up the first year.

Milliken said those who have become disabled or turn 65 this year can still sign up to receive the exemption, regardless of income. The sign-up period is between Jan. 1, 2014, and June 2, 2014.

“We’re urging anyone who turned 65 in 2013 or disabled to file after January and they will be grandfathered in,” as will the elderly and disable currently receiving the exemption, she said.

Legislators who voted for the change say they did so because the program was implemented to help low-income seniors and by expanding the state is providing property tax breaks to wealthier retirees. The move is expected to save state government $34 million spent subsidizing the tax breaks so school districts and local governments would not lose property taxes due them.

Milliken said this will prove a headache for her office because the law requires they mail out reminders every year to program enrollees to inquire of their eligibility status. They were not required to respond if their status was unchanged.

For further information, call the auditor’s office at 330-424-9515.