BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
Higher taxes in a sluggish economy can be a burden for families who are already tightening their belts or are living on a fixed income.
For households such as these, last Monday's decision by the Greene County Commission to approve a 20-cent property tax hike could cause some concern.
That is why county officials want citizens to know that tax relief is available for those that qualify -- especially those 65 or older who meet income requirements, and those who are 100 percent disabled and meet the income requirements.
"It's just a big help -- anything we can give them on a break on their taxes," said County Trustee Dan Walker of the tax relief program.
A program of the Tennessee Comptroller's Office Division of Property Assessment makes property tax relief available for those falling under one of three main categories:
* those 65 years or older who live in a household that had an income of $26,830 or less in the calendar year 2011;
* those of any age who are 100 percent disabled, are drawing Social Security Disability, and live in a household with an income of $26,830 or less in the calendar year 2011; or,
* veterans who are 100 percent disabled, regardless of their age or income.
Persons who believe they qualify under one of these three categories, should bring a Medicare card, Social Security card and proof of income for 2011 (such as an income tax return) when paying their 2012 county property taxes, Walker said.
The Trustee's Office will need to ask for some additional qualifying information at that time, he added.
For those who qualify under the first two categories, the state will send a $94 reimbursement check the first year.
With the recent increase in property taxes, the state will likely increase the amount of their reimbursement, Walker noted.
The second year that a qualifying individual goes to pay his or her property taxes, officials in the Trustee's Office will automatically deduct the state's reimbursement amount from that amount owed.
In addition, the trustee said, in the second year and beyond, the county will add a $28 match to the state's reimbursement for those who qualify based on age and income.
In light of the recent tax increase, the local amount of the local match "is going to be discussed soon," according to County Mayor Alan Broyles.
"It's a very good program. We're happy to see it in place," he said. "The senior citizens are very deserving of a tax break."
If a qualifying individual's taxes are less than the combined state and county amounts, the individual will not receive any money back, but will also not have to pay any property taxes, Walker explained.
For veterans who are 100 percent disabled, the state will pay the entirety of their taxes up to $550, he said.
For additional details, please see Letters to the Editor, Page A-2.