June 27, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Some seniors face deadline for tax break

The Medina County auditor is holding a series of sign-up events aimed at ensuring that residents who turn 65 this year don’t miss out on a tax break worth as much as $500 a year.

The Homestead Program, which had been in effect since 2008, exempted the first $25,000 in taxable value on the homes of residents 65 and older and the disabled regardless of income.

But beginning next year, homeowners who turn 65 won’t get a break on their property taxes unless they prove they have an annual household income of $30,000 or less.

Homeowners already on the program and those eligible this year who sign up by June 2, 2014, won’t have to meet the income requirements — even if they move to a new home.

County Auditor Michael E. Kovack said about 14,000 property owners now are enrolled in the program. He estimated the average savings to be between $400 and $500 a year, depending on which school district the home is in.

Kovack said the eligible seniors can register for the Homestead program at any of the 11 sign-up sessions held at sites throughout the county between now and the end of the year. Residents will be able to ask questions about the program and also conduct other business with the auditor’s office.

The income restrictions on the Homestead program are part of the House Bill 59 “omnibus amendment” to the state budget approved by the Ohio General Assembly and signed by Gov. John Kasich on June 30.

Supporters of the changes argued that adding a means test returns the Homestead program to what it was originally designed to do — help low-income seniors — when it was created in 1971. It wasn’t expanded to all seniors until 2008, during the administration of Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.

The change in the Homestead program is one of two provisions in the new state budget that will increase property taxes: the bill also eliminates the 12.5 percent property tax rollback for all new and replacement levies.

Kovack, a Democrat, has criticized the new rules, arguing the changes will make it harder to pass school levies because property owners will have to pay more to make up for the loss of the rollback.

Under the old rules, the state paid the difference.

The new rules will be seen in the tax bills that go out in 2015.

The sign-up session will be held at the following dates and locations:

–Nov. 14 — Wadsworth Library, 132 Broad St., 10 a.m.–noon
–Nov.15 — Buehler’s Forest Meadows, Medina, 275 Forest Meadows, 10 a.m.-noon
–Nov. 25 — Lodi Drug Mart, 661 Wooster St., 9 a.m.-11 a.m.
–Dec. 3 — Brunswick Library, 3649 Center Rd., 10 a.m.–noon
–Dec. 4 — Medina Library, 210 S. Broadway St., 10 a.m.–noon
–Dec. 9 — Wadsworth Drug Mart, 1005 High St., 9 a.m.–11 a.m.
–Dec 9 — Highland Library, 4160 Ridge Rd., 6 p.m.–8 p.m.
–Dec. 10 — Buckeye Library, 6625 Wolff Rd., 10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
–Dec. 16 — Medina Drug Mart, 135 Harding St., 9 a.m. – 11 a.m.
–Dec. 20 — Brunswick Giant Eagle, 3440 Center Road, 10 a.m.–noon

For more information, contact the auditor’s office at (330) 725-9754 or auditor@medinacountyauditor.org.

The overall effect of the changes is to make schools and local government more dependent on property taxes, Kovack said.

“They are pushing the tax burden down to the local level,” he said. “They are cutting local government funding. Every township village and city got hammered.”

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The Gazette is Medina County's daily local news source, serving the community since 1832. Contact The Gazette's news department at (330) 721-4065 or areanews@medina-gazette.com.