Archive for Thursday, March 6, 2003

Equitable tax relief would benefit Eudora seniors

March 6, 2003

The annual change of valuation notices started arriving in Eudora mail boxes this week. They probably brought sticker shock to many in a city that saw homes increase 16.6 percent on average.

Cheerleaders in and out of government tell us we should be happy with the valuation increases. They are right to a degree. Property owners will pay more taxes, but our homes -- our dearest and most important investments -- are worth more.

That's great for most of us, especially in an increasingly mobile society where homes are frequently on the market. Valuations are going up, but our salaries and wages increase, too.

That is not true of senior citizens on fixed incomes. Talk of increasing property values are fine if homeowners intend to sell, but it must be assumed many senior homeowners in Eudora built or purchased their homes with the intention of living in them until they died or moved late in life to care centers.

The state has recognized the need in the form of a homestead refund that provides qualifying residents 55 years of age or older up to a $600 rebate on property taxes. But the rebate is standard statewide, and the one-size-fits-all rebate doesn't provide near the relief in Eudora that it does in Elkhart. The same fundamental inequality can be applied to the state's homestead exemption that excuses the first $20,000 of appraised value on homes. Seniors in Eudora are caught in a squeeze. The community and the larger school district remain hot housing markets. That not only keeps property values moving up but also creates the demand for more school and services. The result has homes that might be appraised at half their value elsewhere in Kansas supporting a school district forced to add new facilities.

What is needed is some kind of sliding scale that would give seniors in high growth areas comparable relief like their peers elsewhere in Kansas. That would allow the homestead exemptions and refunds to provide greater relief where they are needed most.

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