AUBURN — The Cayuga County Legislature unanimously approved a local law increasing the income limits for county tax exemptions for disabled and senior citizen homeowners.
The Legislature passed the resolution following a 6 p.m. public hearing, where one Moravia resident spoke, at the start of its meeting on Tuesday evening.
Real Property Tax Services Director Kelly Anderson explained to the Ways and Means Committee earlier in the month that — despite some public confusion — increasing income limits is intended to make more elderly and disabled home-owners eligible for the discounts.
The newly-adopted local law adjusts the maximum income for the highest possible discount of 50% off assessed home value from $19,400 to $29,000. On the other end of the scale, the law caps the maximum income at $37,399 to get the lowest discount of 5%.
Previously, $25,100 was the most an elderly or disabled homeowner could make and still be exempt from a portion of their county property taxes. The scale for exemptions was also adjusted so the county can offer discounts at 15%, 10% and 5% of assessed home value.
Sylvia Ingleston, a Moravia resident, told legislators during the public hearing that some senior citizens in the county would still not be qualifying under the income limits set out in the local law.
Ingleston said her family won't qualify for the exemptions, but they bought a house last year and would need to wait to do repairs on it if they don't get a break on their property taxes.
"I feel like senior citizens should be in their home as long as they can and if the taxes are too high for them, they can't pay it," Ingleston said.
In her comments to the Legislature, she pointed out that taxes at the school and town level won't be adjusted — and that New York State's School Tax Relief or STAR program has higher qualifying income levels.
The qualifying income adjustments the county just made bring the county into compliance with the minimum and maximum levels set by the state in 2009, Anderson said during February's committee meeting.
Adjusting to meet those standards is optional, and every jurisdiction is allowed to opt in and out of them.
Another public hearing was set on a proposed local law that would restructure the Public Works Department by breaking it back down into its original components of the highway department, buildings and grounds department, parks and trails; and weights and measures.
The hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 24 in the Legislature chambers on the sixth floor of the 160 Genesee St. county office building.
Two county employees, Don Brown and Venice Highway Department Superintendent Stephen Fedrizzi, used Tuesday's hearing on the tax exemptions to voice their support for the measure.
The rules of order for the Legislature were also amended to change the definitions of the minority and majority caucuses, because the legislative body was left with a formal minority party in the Democrats but no majority party after the Jan. 2 government reorganization meeting.
The majority is now defined as the caucus with the highest weight majority, not the highest weight majority of the Legislature, while the minority caucus is the second-highest weighted majority.
However, the Legislature didn't move to designate the Republican caucus the minority and Democrats the majority during Thursday's meeting because the Conservative caucus didn't have full attendance. Paul Pinckney, R-Aurelius, was excused that night.
Staff writer Mary Catalfamo can be reached at (315) 282-2244 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Find her on Twitter @mrycatalfamo.
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