No more ‘Truth in Taxation’ on county tax bills

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 September 2014 at 12:00 am

Legislature also weighs expanding senior tax exemptions

ALBION – The new Orleans County tax bills that come out in January will no longer list taxpayer costs for the nursing home, state-mandated programs and other general services.

The Legislature voted last week to go back to one line item for the tax bills. The break-out was confusing to residents, said Legislator Lynne Johnson.

The county also expects to close on the sale of the nursing home by the end of the year, meaning there shouldn’t be county taxpayer subsidies for The Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center in the future.

The Legislature in 2011 voted to have “Truth in Taxation” on the tax bills, trying to highlight key cost drivers in the county tax bill. Legislators say they will continue to raise awareness on the impact of state mandated programs on the county budget. State programs such as Medicaid, indigent defense and several others account for more than the county’s total tax levy of about $15 million.

The Legislature also is considering expanding the tax discounts for lower-income senior citizens. Seniors who earn less than $19,200 are eligible for discounts on their county taxes. That level hasn’t been changed since 2007. The new level would be increased by $2,000.

The Legislature held a public hearing on the issue last Wednesday and set a second hearing for 4:25 p.m. on Oct. 8.

Paul Lauricella, vice chairman of the Orleans County Conservative Party, said the county should work to giving every resident a tax break, not just a select group.

“I feel for the seniors,” Lauricella said during the public hearing. “But when you do these target groups everybody else pays the difference.”

Right now the county offers 50 percent off for seniors with household incomes up to $13,500. The sliding scale exemption drops to 20 percent off for seniors with annual incomes between $18,300 and $19,199. It’s 0 percent for seniors with incomes at $19,200 or above.

The new proposed schedule includes the following percentage exemptions:

50 percent off for incomes up to $15,500
45 percent off for incomes between $15,500 and $16,499
40 percent between $16,500 and $17,499
35 percent between $17,500 and $18,499
30 percent between $18,500 and $19,399
25 percent between $19,400 and $20,299
20 percent between $20,300 and $21,199
0 percent after $21,200