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Clearwater bumps up senior exemption

This comes a year after the city okayed a $10,000 homestead exemption. Residents must be 65 and older and meet an income requirement to be eligible for the new $25,000 break.

By MIKE DONILA
Published September 12, 2006


CLEARWATER - Some of the city's older residents will get a bigger tax break next year.

The City Council on Thursday unanimously agreed to bump the homestead exemption for senior citizens from $10,000 to $25,000, the maximum allowed by the state.

Clearwater residents 65 and older whose annual household income does not exceed $23,463 are eligible to receive it.

"We looked at the impact on the budget and felt it was appropriate, reasonable and a good idea to increase the exemption," council member John Doran said.

The exemption can be used for tax year 2007 and subsequent years. It will save the average senior about $135.50 a year.

Last year, the council approved a $10,000 senior exemption, and 819 residents took advantage of the break.

That meant a savings on average of $57.53 a year in city taxes.

"We felt like going up to the full $25,000 would help the neediest of our fixed-income citizens," Mayor Frank Hibbard said. "It's not an enormous population, but they are the hardest hit by all the escalating prices in the economy."

These savings do not include whatever breaks residents could receive from the county's senior homestead exemption.

The Clearwater City Council has come under fire in recent weeks from a public that's upset with increasing taxes and property values.

Clearwater, though, actually lowered the property tax rate this year by one-third of a mill to 5.42 mills. But many residents may not see a great deal of savings if their home's assessment increases. (Someone who owns a house valued at the city's average of $143,000 will probably save about $16.)

The assessment also could be much higher if the home changes owners during the year.

The mayor said the council in the upcoming months needs to continue raking through the city's budget "and find relief for everybody."