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Tax Relief for Seniors, Disabled May Fall Short

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Tax Relief for Seniors, Disabled May Fall Short

Tax relief for Richmond's poorest homeowners appears to be in jeopardy. As real-estate assessments rise across the city, a $1.6 million funding shortfall means that people expecting a 100 percent reprieve from real estate taxes, typically senior citizens and disabled homeowners, may get only partial relief.

The program is extended on a sliding scale to all homeowners who are 65 and older or permanently disabled, and who have less than $50,000 in annual income and $200,000 in assets (excluding their homes). This year the program is expected to cost $3.6 million. But the city administration has budgeted only $2 million and has so far balked at coughing up the difference.

The result: The 1,066 people who qualify for the 100 percent tax break — residents with less than $20,000 in annual income and $20,000 in assets excluding their homes — may get a break of only 56 percent.

Harry Black, the city's chief financial officer and acting chief administrative officer, says City Hall is working with City Council in an attempt to make up the difference. But he says there's no guarantee they'll find the money.

"We just don't know for sure right now," Black says.

The shortfall, he says, can be attributed to the rising real-estate assessments — which increased 11.4 percent this year — and City Council's expansion of the program a year ago. Last year the program cost the city $2.6 million.

City Councilwoman Kathy Graziano says the tax-relief program is critical for the poorest of the poor homeowners in the city. For example, a resident who qualifies with real estate valued at $75,000 would get a tax bill of $425.70 at 56 percent tax relief.

"Administration and council are working in good faith to fix this problem," Graziano says. "You would hope that this would be worked out before the tax bills went out."

Last year the tax rate was $1.29 per $100 in assessed value. This year's rate hasn't been set, and real-estate bills are expected to hit the mail in mid-May. S

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