October 15, 2006

THE ISSUE: -- The Howard County Council is scheduled to vote Oct. 30 on a bill to reduce property taxes by 25 percent for homeowners age 70 and older. If approved, the tax break would take effect July 1. But members of the county's Commission on Aging, while favoring the concept, urge a delay. They want more research on the need for such a break, on why older homeowners sell their homes and move, and on how much the program would cost the county. What do you think of such a tax break? Should the council vote on the proposal this month or after the November election?

Hold off approval of the tax break

I am 73 years old, and not so affluent that a 25 percent ($900) tax saving would not be a big help. I am also a registered independent voter, so I can keep political loyalties out of my reaction. This issue needs much more research. I don't know anyone who has moved out of the county because of the real estate taxes. When they go up, it squeezes us more, but not to the point of pushing us out. We just give up some luxuries that we are used to.

Also, the $75,000 gross income limit in the bill is too low. Seventy-five-thousand is not a great deal of income for this generation who has worked and saved for 40 years. Our forced IRA withdrawals push our income up. Seventy-five thousand taxable income would be fairer to people who pay other taxes, have high medical expenses, and donate substantial amounts.

To me this looks like another of council Chairman Chris Merdon's desperate attempts to get elected county executive. It's like his campaign just thinks up things to offer that the voters would like, and grabs some numbers out of the air to say they would pay for the goodies. It's obvious that there has been little if any research done, and the bill should be left to the next council.

George A. Ford Jr.


Action would help us keep our home

We are in favor of immediate action on the proposed residential property tax reduction so that it can go into effect by next July. We have lived at the present address for the past 36 years and would like to remain, but taxes have increased to the point that we cannot afford to stay unless we get some relief.

Donald E. and Marguerite D. Simmons

Ellicott City

Politics behind timing of bill?

Finally, some tax relief for seniors. But is it what it really should be?

With elections next month, the proposed tax bill may be politically motivated. For the past several years a more advantageous bill was introduced to the General Assembly by Del. Gail Bates (Republican) but has been voted down.

Our opinion on the $75,000 maximum income requirement -- if we were in that category, we wouldn't worry so much about the tax break.

The county Commission on Aging states that they need more information on senior's needs. Isn't that their purpose to begin with? Shouldn't they have all the information needed in their records?

The council should vote this month as we are fully in favor of any tax relief for eligible low-income seniors.

Bill and Barbara Ritz


More questions on the tax cut

I am a "senior," and I have lived in Howard County for 36 years, but I find the proposal by Chris Merdon for a "senior tax cut" difficult to support at this time.

Unfortunately the proposal is referred to as a tax cut for seniors, giving the impression that all "seniors" would benefit, whereas it actually targets those 70 or over with income of less than $75,000. There are many questions raised by this proposal that at this time are not answered.

How many people would qualify? Who determines that and based on what? How is "income" defined? Is this pre- or post-adjustments made on the federal income tax form? Does it include investment income, earned income, pensions? What would be the financial impact for the county budget? How would this loss be compensated? Would there be cuts in other areas or increased income or other taxes elsewhere? What would the projected cost be in 5, 10, 20 years? Is there a residency requirement, such as 20 years or more in the county -- or in the same house -- or do you just have to be 70 years old? If you have lived in the county for 35 years but "downsized" more recently to a smaller house, would you still qualify?

Are we encouraging people to stay in Howard County or to stay in a house that might be "too much house" for a 70-year old? Right now this looks like an election-year gimmick.

David H. Pardo


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