County ponders tax breaks for elderly
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

January 23, 2004 -- An exemption on Hopkins County's property taxes for homeowners age 65 and over may still be one or more years away, according to Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap.

In a workshop session, county commissioners discussed how other taxing entities such as school districts, the city of Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County Memorial Hospital are handling tax exemptions for homeowners age 65 and over.

"We are just looking to see how we can fit into the mix too," Millsap said. "You don't want to burden people with over-taxation, and this is something we continue to look at."

The county has seen considerable growth over the past year, Millsap said, and he doesn't see why county commissioners would not revisit the tax abatement for seniors in the next few years.

"It will give us a chance to look at the amount of revenue coming in so we can assist those people who need immediate tax relief through an exemption after they reach age 65," he said.

Proposition 13, which was approved in the Constitutional Amendment Election held in September, provides a way for counties and other taxing entities to freeze the taxable value of property owned by persons 65 and older.

While commissioners are not opposed to the concept, they said something would have to be done to offset the tax dollars lost to the exemption. One way, according to Judge Millsap, involves the delinquent taxpayers and the ones that are not paying their fair share of taxes.

"Here is one thing that is important to us," Millsap said. "By freezing one person's taxes, you force another person to make up the difference."

He said deductions already are responsible for some of the county's problems in formulating its budget each year and the implementation of the abatement of taxes for senior citizen property owners could add to the problem of finding the money necessary to keep up with the constant increase in expenses and to maintain at least the current level of services.

While the growth in the county's tax base, along with an increase in the number of homeowners, will help to make the exemption possible in future years, Millsap said the burden will still be on those under the age 65 limit.

"If you need additional revenue down the road, there are more and more people who will be paying more taxes to subsidize those frozen taxpayers," he said.

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