Speaking to a half-dozen senior citizens taking a break from their morning exercise class yesterday, Toledo at-large Councilman Betty Shultz outlined how she plans to make the Lucas County treasurer's office more "senior-friendly."
Mrs. Shultz, a Republican, is running against fellow Councilman Wade Kapszukiewicz, a Democrat who represents District 6, for the treasurer's post.
Making the treasurer's office more approachable for residents 65 years and older - a population that in 2000 was recorded at 59,411 people, or 13 percent of all Lucas County residents - is a priority for Mrs. Shultz, 74, who included herself in those living on a fixed or
Mrs. Shultz proposed creating a senior citizen ombudsman to help the elderly navigate their tax returns.
"I have heard from my constituents, 'I need help with my taxes,' but they're apprehensive about approaching the tax collector," Mrs. Shultz said. "I want to be able to help them through it in a friendly way."
Mrs. Shultz also encouraged taxpayers to send their tax payments to the county every month, instead of sending the money to their mortgage company to sit in an escrow account until the tax bill is due. In return, the county would invest the early tax payments and credit the taxpayer's account with whatever interest is earned on their payments.
She gave no estimate of what that would save seniors, but said it certainly would go up as the economy improves.
The thought appealed to Dolores Heilman, 70, who listened to Mrs. Shultz's ideas yesterday. She was especially interested in the candidate's hope to introduce a senior citizen tax deferral program, which would allow seniors to defer increases in their property tax until their homes are sold.
"We moved into our house about five years ago, and the taxes were $850 [every six months]. Now they're over $1,000 [every six months]," Ms. Heilman said. "I cannot afford to pass any more levies even though I think sometimes they are needed."
Mr. Kapszukiewicz said he is focusing his campaign on changing the way the treasurer's office works and does business - a move he said will benefit all taxpayers, including seniors.
In particular, he will focus on collecting delinquent taxes, an effort that could net the county upward of $4 million, he said.
"I think the problems go deeper," he said of Mrs. Shultz's plans for the treasurer's office. "To me, it sounds like she's protecting status quo."
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