With an exemption increase given preliminary approval, San Marcos’ senior citizens will get some property tax relief.
By BRAD ROLLINS
In 2005, Jack Hugman got the cold shoulder when he set out to convince local government officials to freeze tax bills for homeowners older than 65. Appearing before the city council and commissioners court, the local AARP leader argued that retired people on fixed incomes deserve a tax bill insulated from yearly increases in appraisal values. He said he was ignored.
“It went over like a lead balloon. They didn’t want to hear a word of it and came up with all kinds of off-the-wall excuses for why it shouldn’t be done,” Hugman, 79, said later.
Fast-forward two years and Hugman’s one-man offensive has paid off. Partially.
When it takes its third and last vote on the measure Dec. 4, the city council will finalize an increase in the senior homestead exemption from $10,000 to $25,000 in property value and authorize a $45,000 exemption for legally disabled homeowners. About 2,017 elderly San Marcos homeowners will qualify for the exemption next year, the Hays Central Appraisal District estimates.
In increasing the exemption, city officials are following Hays County which last year implemented a senior exemption increase to $45,000 and added a $45,000 exemption for disabled residents. The exemption went into effect this year.
As with the county, the city took up the issue in an election year that saw incumbents in tight re-election bids. The council instructed staff to draw up the legal paperwork to put the senior exemption increase into effect in October. Staff originally proposed a $10,000 increase to $20,000 but council members decided Nov. 5 – a day before the election – to up the tax break to $25,000. The measure passed unanimously on second reading this week.
The change will result in $96,788 less in ad valorum revenue each year, Interim City Manager Collette Jamison said. That’s assuming the tax rate stays the same and everyone else does not get older.
Homeowners must apply to the appraisal district for the exemption by Jan. 1 but residents who already qualify for a city senior exemption do not have to re-apply. Residents cannot claim both the senior and disabled exemptions and couples and other joint homeowners get one exemption between them.
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