Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mayor Calls for Enhanced Tax Relief for the Elderly and Disabled

~Proposal submitted to City Council for action~

Mayor Dwight C. Jones is calling for enhanced tax relief for the elderly and disabled for 2011 and beyond. The Mayor's proposal follows state tax relief guidelines, but streamlines the city's current program by simplifying the relief schedule.

The Code of Virginia allows localities to provide real estate tax relief to senior and disabled homeowners who meet certain income and net worth requirements. The city of Richmond has been providing such relief, but the structure under which the city has operated shows that Richmond is below the average of its peers for maximum income and net worth guidelines as well as per person participation.

"By streamlining the current program we can increase the number of participants and provide more relief to some of our most vulnerable residents," said Mayor Jones. "With making a few simple changes, we can provide additional relief to more people without exceeding the current budget."

The Code is very flexible in regards to how each locality may determine the amount of tax relief granted to qualifying applicants. Currently, the city program has over 20 possible scenarios for the administering of the program. The Mayor's proposed changes reduce and streamline the program to four possible scenarios and make the program easier to administer.

"The amount budgeted for tax relief has consistently exceeded the amount of relief provided," Mayor Jones explained. "We are working to make this program easier to understand so that we'll reach more applicants and provide a greater level of relief." Under the proposal, an average participant with income from $20,001 to $30,000, for example, could receive up to $570 in additional relief. In some cases, this could be double the amount of relief previously received. An additional 145 households with an income of less than or equal to $20,000 will receive much needed 100% relief. Many of these households are presently only eligible for 70% relief.

The city administration plans to hold a series of workshops to educate the public about the availability of this relief if the changes are enacted. Mayor Jones indicated that he is working closely with Richmond City Councilman Marty Jewell on this effort who has expressed great support for the proposed changes.

# # #