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Tax exemptions, fracking regulations

In a few months the county executive will present the Legislature with the 2013 county budget, from which legislators will then scrutinize, adjust and adopt sometime in early December. Once adopted the tax levy will be set, which is the amount to be collected from taxed properties in the county. Once determined the rate per property is set, from which based upon a resident’s property value the amount to be collected can be determined. Inasmuch as different properties have different values, so also the status of the property owner determines how much, or how little, he or she pays.

These differences in the tax status are what are known as tax exemptions. In recent months I have been leading the discussion on tax rates in county government based upon a local law I sponsored to give low-income, disabled property owners the advantages enjoyed by other groups. First discussed in February and introduced in April amid a cold reception, my local law has been discussed monthly since May. It will come up for a vote in September and is expected to pass with near unanimous support.

Introduced alongside Legislator Alison MacAvery (D-Beacon), the Kelsey-MacAvery Limited Income for Disabled (LID) property owner exemption has since gained the co-sponsorships of three other legislators: Joel Tyner (D-Clinton), John Forman (R-Beacon) and Rich Perkins (D-Hyde Park). It seeks to give a discount on their county property taxes to property owners who meet strictly defined criteria for disabilities and who make below a certain income. The idea to extend the exemption at the county level came from a town of Washington resident.

Half the towns and school districts currently offer the exemption. It’s seen as a way to keep the disabled poor in their homes and off the public dole. In 2010, 192 people claimed the LID exemption on their local taxes. Without the extra bump, there may have been even less. Based upon my property value ($140,000) I calculated that my county taxes last year would have increased by 42 cents had the LID been in effect.

Initially, some of my colleagues were opposed to adjusting the tax rate, even marginally. I argued that exemptions should be across the board and cited the large volume of exemptions offered other protected classes, namely seniors and veterans. I argued that the disabled poor who maintain properties were equally worthy of extra assistance, especially since there were so few of them. In comparison to the 192 LID exemptions in 2010, 69,957 people claimed the senior exemption, and 12,857 claimed veteran exemptions.

The LID exemption increases the county tax rate by .001, which means if we do nothing else to the budget this year that all of us will see a reduction in taxable value of $18,500,000 that will affect us individually by an increase in our county tax (mine will be 42 cents). In comparison we already feel the reduction in taxable value of $253,909,748 based upon the exemption given to our senior populations.

It is worth noting the overall effect of exemptions on the tax rate. Had there been zero exemptions granted the universal county tax rate in 2010 would have been 2.44. With all exemptions in place (includes clergy, agricultural, veteran, seniors, forests, etc.) the universal tax rate in 2010 soared to 3.07.

Next month, the Legislature will vote on the LID exemption, and in the months that follow adopt the 2013 County Budget. We do so with a more comprehensive understanding of the tax exemption and its impact on the individual and collective taxpayer.

Michael N. Kelsey represents Amenia, Washington, Stanford, Pleasant Valley and Millbrook in the Dutchess County Legislature. Write him at KelseyES@yahoo.com and visit past columns at blog.votemikekelsey.com.