Scotia-Glenville Central School District officials are considering raising the income limits to qualify for senior property tax exemptions for the first time since 2002.
Under the current scale, people ages 65 and older can have 50 percent of their property value exempt from taxation if they make $18,000 or less annually. The amount of the exemption decreases by 5 percentage points at each rung of the sliding income scale. The lowest level is currently a 10 percent exemption for a senior making $24,600 or more but less than $25,500.
Superintendent Susan Swartz said a resident had brought the issue to the board’s attention recently, asking why the limits have not been raised. Business Manager Andrew Giaquinto said because there haven’t been any adjustments for inflation, some people’s incomes may have gotten too high in the last 10 years to qualify.
He said if the district were to raise its exemption limits, other taxpayers would have to cover what the seniors are no longer paying.
“You’re making up 10 years worth of lost ground. You’d expect at least a percent,” Giaquinto said.
Board members worried about the effect on next year’s budget if the tax burden is shifted to other residents.
“It’s going to take more property off the tax rolls basically,” said board President Pam Carbone.
Vice President Colleen Benedetto said the district can’t just make the change without determining the effect on taxpayers.
Fellow board member Andy Crapo said this change wouldn’t change the total amount of money collected for the budget. However, it does change the share everyone’s paying. He added that it is essentially a trade-off in raising the tax rate for some to lower it for others.
Carbone said she could see the need to do something to help senior citizens, but suggested perhaps implementing the change in phases.
Board member Gary Normington said the longer the board waits, the greater the impact ultimately will be.
Schenectady County raised its exemption levels in 2009. It includes a 50-percent exemption for seniors making less than $29,000 and a 5-percent exemption for those seniors making more than $36,500 but less than $37,400.
The Niskayuna, South Colonie, Schenectady, Mohonasen and Schalmont school districts are all using that scale, according to Giaquinto. County officials would prefer that all municipalities have the same exemptions schedule. However, Scotia-Glenville isn’t required to adjust its amounts, he said.
The board asked Giaquinto to do more research about how much this change would cost.
If it were to raise the income limits, the district would have to hold a public hearing and have the new exemption schedule in place by March 1 to take effect for the 2013 tax roll.