At 76, Donald J. Dunn is looking forward to seeing the annual property tax bill on his West Friendship home stay exactly where it is for now, thanks to tax relief measures unanimously approved by the Howard County Council.
"It fulfills the wishes I had," Dunn said about one bill, which would let disabled homeowners and those 65 or older with annual incomes under $75,000 defer property tax increases, interest-free, until their homes are sold. "It allows seniors the option - and it's a good option - of staying in their house and being able to plan and have some security."
The tax deferral measure was one of two approved Monday by the council. The second increases to $40,000 from $28,000 the income eligibility ceiling for the state's circuit-breaker credit program for low-income residents.
No political rivalries were in evidence during the votes.
"I want to say how pleased I am that we all came together," said council Chairman Guy Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat, after the body voted to amend one of the two bills to make all five councilmen sponsors. He said the deferral bill would send a message to older residents that "we are interested in their situation and hope they stay in the county."
Ellicott City Republican Christopher J. Merdon agreed. "Seniors should be leaving Howard County because of snow and ice - not because of high taxes," he said.
Guzzone said directions for applying for the help will come with the July tax bills.
Last month, Guzzone and Merdon introduced nearly identical versions of the same tax deferral bill for seniors, and Guzzone put in the circuit-breaker bill. The two men - expected to be rivals for the county executive job in next year's elections - clashed initially over credit for the idea, but last week at a work session all the councilmen agreed to unite as co-sponsors.
As he voted, David A. Rakes, an east Columbia Democrat, said renters also shouldn't be forgotten in the move to give homeowners tax relief.
"We need to reach a lot of other people who are renters," he said, and who do not directly pay property taxes but pay income taxes and increasing rents.