Tax rebates for elderly up for debate SOUTH COUNTY * Annapolis * Edgewater

October 01, 1992|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

It's been three years, but Wayne Turner says he hasn't forgotten the elderly people he met on the campaign trail who complained that they could no longer afford to live in Annapolis.

Lifelong residents came up to him in 1989 to talk about being forced out of their homes by sharply increasing property taxes. Now the Annapolis alderman has drafted a bill to protect them by freezing property values for all homeowners at least 65 years old who have lived in the city seven years.

His proposal to offer tax rebates to seniors will be considered by the City Council's Finance Committee this morning.

Annapolis has held the line on property taxes in the last two years, but higher state assessments raised the average payments 9 percent each year. Next year, in the conclusion of the three-year assessment cycle, the average tax tab will increase by 9 percent again.

"A lot of seniors are concerned about the high cost of living in the city of Annapolis," said Mr. Turner, a Republican who represents the city's sixth ward. "What I want to do is give them a little financial relief so that when they do go into retirement, they can continue to live in their homes."

Slightly more than 40 percent of the city's $37.2 million budget for day-to-day expenses comes from property taxes. The city collected $15.5 million in property taxes this year, with about $9.3 million being paid by residents and the rest by businesses.

Annapolis' elderly population almost doubled in the last decade, jumping from 2,270 in 1980 to 4,060 in 1990, according to U.S. Census data. Seniors now represent 12 percent of the city's 33,187 population.

Several council members have questioned whether the city can afford to forgo property tax increases in years to come.

City Administrator Michael Mallinoff said he believes the qualifications should be narrowed to seniors with low or moderate incomes.

With its waterfront properties and carefully preserved historical homes, Maryland's colonial capital has become an attractive retirement spot for the wealthy, he pointed out. The current proposal would allow retired CEOs with waterfront homes to receive handsome refunds.

But Mr. Turner maintains the impact would be minimal. He said only 675 seniors would qualify next year, and the rebates citywide would total $54,000.

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