Carroll commissioners enact senior tax credit

In an effort to offset rising assessments, homeowners over 65 will qualify for more relief


Carroll County commissioners have eased the tax burden for senior citizens with a property tax credit they unanimously enacted yesterday.

Coping with soaring tax assessments while living on fixed incomes, seniors could save as much as $1,000 on their 2007 tax bill, Carroll County officials said.

Qualified homeowners, ages 65 and older with an annual income of no more than $50,000, can immediately apply for the credit that will supplement tax relief the state offers seniors on the first $300,000 of a home's assessed value.

The county's measure allows residents greater leeway by boosting the maximum net worth criteria to $500,000, an amount that excludes the value of the home and qualified retirement plans.

"The commissioners have stepped out of the pattern of what is already out there and broadened it," said Ted Zaleski, Carroll's director of management and budget. "Under existing state programs, many people would not qualify for this credit."

Assessments, which have risen an average 20 percent across the state in the last year, are prompting similar legislation. The Baltimore County Council is considering a senior tax credit worth $160 per household. Howard County agreed last year to allow some seniors to defer property tax increases until they sell their homes.

The state has just doubled the home value limit to $300,000, an initiative that will qualify about 4,000 more elderly homeowners statewide for a tax credit.

"Rising assessments have put pressure on people whose incomes are not rising as fast as their home values," said Commissioner Dean L. Minnich. "This credit will help all those people who want to age in place."

Seniors have until Sept. 1 to apply for the credit, which takes effect July 1. Officials will need about a year to fully understand the fiscal impact.

"I hope citizens realize that we have gone out on a limb," said Commissioner Perry L. Jones. "We really have no idea how many will take advantage of this. We felt this was necessary and it was something we promised to do."

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