Increased real estate tax relief for Hanover County’s elderly and disabled residents is on the table, though members of the county’s Board of Supervisors on Wednesday afternoon questioned whether the additional relief goes far enough.
Minus board member Allen Davidson, who was absent to deal with family issues, the board unanimously authorized a public hearing for April 6 on the county’s tax relief program. The program is available for residents 65 and older and/or are permanently disabled, and it applies to the taxes on their home and up to 10 acres of land.
The program is a tiered system based on an individual’s net worth – minus their home’s value – and their annual income. Currently, anyone who makes $52,500 or less – and has a net worth of up to $200,000 that does not include their home – is eligible for tax relief on their real estate taxes of between 25% and 100%.
Specifically, the tiers for income and tax relief are: $0 to $22,500 earns 100% relief; $22,501 to $32,500 is entitled to 75% relief; $32,501 to $42,500 earns 50% relief; and anyone making between $45,501 and $52,500 an receive 25% relief.
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To prove net worth, individuals must show documentation such as tax returns, social security statements, banks and investment statements, IRA statements and information on any property owned.
Last month, County Administrator John Budesky presented his proposed budget, which raises the net worth threshold of the relief program to $300,000, while each tier of relief under 100% would go up by 5% – that means individuals could receive either 30%, 55 % or 80% tax relief.
But Wednesday, Hanover Budget Manager Mark Highfield said that as part of ongoing evaluations of the proposed budget, “staff was tasked to look at further enhancements to the relief program.”
In doing that, the staff proposal now includes increasing each income tier by $2,500. That’s in addition to the other proposed changes.
That means the maximum under each income tier would rise to $25,000, $35,000, $45,000 and $55,000, he said, and “this enhancement is expected to provide an additional $100,000 of tax relief beyond the amount in the proposed budget.”
Board members agreed that doing as much as possible to provide relief was necessary but that maybe there’s still more relief to be found.
Henry District representative Sean Davis said just from last month to now, gas prices, inflation and other factors have changed for the worse and will probably continue that way. Acknowledging that additional relief would not be “net neutral” – meaning even more savings sought for residents would have to come from somewhere else in the budget – “I want to be open that I may have a desire to look at a different set of numbers , higher that what we looked at now,” he said.
To that, Board Chair Angela Kelly-Wiecek acknowledged that during the budget evaluations, “there were a number of scenarios evaluated,” and said her own proposed relief amounts reached upwards of $400,000.
“We have a number of opportunities that go from tweaks … to something that is really quite substantial.”
Kelly-Wiecek continued by saying “we understand the need to assist those on fixed incomes who are being hit rather hard by rising [real estate] assessments and certainly by inflation and essentials, such as groceries and gas.”
She added: “We felt that this was another way to get relief targeted to the people who need it most.”
Budesky, the county administrator, told the board that the $2,500 added to the income tiers represented a “pretty dramatic” change. He reminded the board the additional relief means finding the money somewhere else, but that “if you consider [additional] increases, we just need to plan and adjust accordingly.”
Ashland District representative Faye Prichard said she’s seen how her own parents struggle with managing care as they age.
“The costs of care for folks as they age is phenomenal,” she said. “We have a lot of citizens in Hanover who … have done everything right – worked hard, saved … and now through absolutely no fault of their own in their elderly years, find it difficult” just to maintain their current living standards.
“Whatever we can do,” she said, “I’m 1,000% behind.”