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Seniors will get expanded tax break

Low-income seniors eligible for a homestead exemption who don't earn more than $23,463 annually will get an added city exemption.

By LORRI HELFAND
Published August 2, 2006


LARGO - City leaders listened to residents like 76-year-old Edie Slade and 73-year-old Grace L. Daley and adopted an additional homestead exemption for low-income senior citizens Tuesday.

"They were shamed into it," said Slade, a recently retired nurse's aide who sat in the second row at the Largo City Commission meeting.

Two weeks ago, support for the legislation appeared to wane, with the exemption winning the commission's initial approval by a mere 4-to-3 vote.

But Tuesday night it received final approval with only one commissioner, Gay Gentry, voting against it.

Gentry, who had previously voiced concerns about pending state legislation affecting revenue from property taxes, said the exemption is flawed because it gives a break to only one group. She said she would not vote for the exemption just because she wanted to feel good about herself or wanted people to think she was a kind person.

Daley, a counselor and education trainer who is still paying off school loans, said the exemption would help her out.

"This particular homestead (exemption) helps the low-income folks who really need this break," Daley told commissioners. "Not someone who is earning $60,000 or more."

To qualify for the exemption, seniors will have to be eligible for a homestead exemption and cannot make more than $23,463 annually. The city's staff estimated that about 500 to 1,000 households may qualify and the city could lose about $37,000 in property tax revenue. Seniors who qualify would save about $64 on their annual property tax bills.

Commissioner Mary Gray Black, who opposed the exemption at the July 18 meeting, reversed her position, saying she now supported the full $25,000 exemption allowed by law. That exemption would save qualified seniors $107 a year.

Only Commissioner Rodney Woods voted with Black to allow the maximum.

In other action, commissioners approved a resolution to join other cities in litigation to challenge Pinellas County referendum questions. The staff estimates that attorney fees could range from $10,000 to $30,000.

[Last modified August 1, 2006, 22:46:50]


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