November 22, 2006
Levy Calls For Enhanced Tax Exemption
County Executive Steve Levy announced three new proposals designed to expand tax exemptions for special residents of Suffolk County — senior citizens, the disabled, and veterans, plus the spouses of deceased volunteer firefighters and ambulance personnel.
The first, a local law that will be eligible for adoption by the legislature next month, extends the existing exemption to the spouses of deceased fire or ambulance volunteers. Currently, only the spouses of those killed in the line of duty are eligible. The new plan is available to those whose mates volunteered for at least 20 years and were receiving the property tax exemption at the time of their deaths. The spouses can't remarry if they want to keep the exemption.
Seniors and disabled residents already receive a Suffolk County property tax exemption, provided their income falls below a particular cap. Levy's plan increases the maximum income eligibility from $24,000 to $26,000 this year, $27,000 next year, $28,000 in 2008 and $29,000 in 2009. Exemptions are calculated on a sliding scale, as well. Those making the incomes listed above can receive 45% off their county property tax. Homeowners earning between $34,500 and $35,400 next year would get 5% off their tax bill.
Veterans also are eligible for a property tax exemption, as long as they stay in one place. If an eligible person sells his house, he has to wait up to 18 months for a new application and exemption to kick in. If approved by the legislature, Levy's new measure would let veterans transfer a pro-rated portion of their exemption when they sell one home and buy another within the same town or village.
In most towns, the county portion amounts to less than 15% of the property tax bill, the county exec noted last week. Nonetheless, Levy said offering the enhanced exemptions is one way government can help ease the financial burdens of home ownership for people on fixed and moderate incomes.