Garfield County assessor says state senior tax exemption threatened again
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Garfield County officials are continuing to wrestle with the legalities of offering a “senior citizen benefit” to replace the state’s Homestead Property Tax Exemption for senior citizens.
At the same time, the state Legislature is considering whether to suspend what is known as “the senior exemption” for two more years.
The state’s property tax exemption for qualified seniors, according to information on the General Assembly’s website, was created in 2000 as a way to relieve economic stress for senior citizens. But it was suspended for the 2009 tax year as a way to save money during the ongoing recession.
Garfield County Assessor John Gorman said on Friday that the county’s benefit, which essentially is a one-time payment to property owners who would qualify for the state’s exemption, remains stalled because of legalities connected with confidentiality requirements aimed at keeping ruthless con artists from preying on senior citizens.
Basically, any property owner who is at least 65 years old and has lived in his or her home for a decade or more qualifies for the exemption, which lowers that taxpayer’s tax burden.
Due to the confidentiality requirements, Gorman said, his office cannot release information about those who qualify for the state exemption, even to the county treasurer’s office, which would send out the benefit checks.
He said the county has asked state officials for help in figuring out how the two county departments can share the data needed to accomplish the goals of the Board of County Commissioners. The board voted earlier this year to offer the benefit to seniors as a way of making up for the suspension of the state exemption.
According to the Legislature’s website, a bill to suspend the senior exemption through Jan. 1, 2012 – SB 10-190 – was introduced by Sens. White and Keller on April 8 and passed by the Senate Committee on Appropriations on April 16. The bill now goes to the full Senate for debate.
A legislative analyst estimated that suspending the exemption would save the state more than $91 million in the 2010-2011 tax year, and more than $96 million in the 2011-2012 tax year.
“Unless there’s a great hue and cry among citizens, expressed by communicating with their elected officials, this bill will be passed on a fast track,” said Gorman, who is deeply involved in trying to work out the county’s senior benefit payments.
He suggested that a “thoughtful examination of the state’s budget might lead to some alternate choices for reducing the budget” without laying it on the shoulders of senior citizens.
He urged any local citizens with concerns about the issue to call either State Rep. Kathleen Curry, I-Gunnison, Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Granby, or Sen. Al White, R-Hayden. White, along with Sen. Maryanne Keller, D-Wheatridge, is a primary sponsor of the bill.
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