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Published: Tuesday, 7/16/2013

City Council reviews McNamara's plan to prevent loss of homestead discount

BLADE STAFF

Toledo City Council today reviewed a proposal by Councilman Joe McNamara that he said would prevent senior citizens from losing the homestead-exemption discount on water, sewer, and trash collection fees since the state has reinstated income limits on who can qualify for a homestead-exemption property tax discount.

Under the proposed legislation, the city’s director of public utilities would be responsible for ensuring anyone who is at least 65 years old or is permanently disabled gets the 25 percent discount in water and sewer rates and a $5 monthly refuse collection fee rather than $15.

Mr. McNamara said the discount is in jeopardy because city law currently states it will go to those who get a property tax homestead-exemption discount. Since the two-year budget signed recently by Gov. John Kasich reinstated income restrictions to the homestead exemption discount on property taxes, the city law needs to be updated to maintain the utility discounts, Mr. McNamara said.

Under the new state budget, new applicants who make more than $30,000 a year, excluding Social Security, would not qualify for the discount, which is a $25,000 reduction of the property value. Everyone who is already getting the property tax discount would continue to receive it.

“If we want to continue the policy we already have and not adopt the means test, we have to change the municipal code,” he said. “If members like the means test, and feel seniors who make more than $30,000 should not get the discount, then they can vote no."

Mr. McNamara, a Democrat, is one of seven who filed last week to run for Toledo mayor in the Sept. 10 primary election.

Toledo Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat said Mayor Bell supports Mr. McNamara's legislation. Anita Lopez, the Lucas County auditor and a Democratic candidate for mayor, in a news conference earlier this month said she would ensure all seniors and residents with disabilities who currently can qualify would continue to get the discount.

Independent mayoral candidate D. Michael Collins, also a city councilman, wants to go one step further and increase the senior citizen discount from 25 percent to 40 percent. He questioned if the city's utilities department could take on the responsibility of tracking seniors without increasing the city budget.

- Ignazio Messina



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