Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Press-ganging grandma 

You wouldn't think you should worry about the property taxes of someone living in Westchester County, NY, but one senior citizen, facing a property tax bill of $12,000 while living on Social Security, is being offered a chance to trade labor for taxes.
The town is pushing a program that would let seniors work part-time, for $7 an hour, to help pay off some of their property taxes.

"People shouldn't have to sell their house, move away to a place with less taxes, leave behind their family and friends," said Town Supervisor Paul Feiner.

He envisions retired doctors mentoring schoolchildren, retired accountants helping with the town's finances, retired lawyers offering their services for a discount. But there are plenty of less-skilled jobs that need doing, he said.

"It's not like we're going to see grandma running the snowplow," he said. "There are lots of things people can do for the town and it wouldn't cost us that much to pay them."

The proposal has caused a stir in Greenburgh, a town of 90,000 in Westchester County, which has the nation's third-highest homeowner property taxes. The plan would be unusual if not unique in New York, but similar programs are considered successes in Colorado, Massachusetts, South Carolina and elsewhere.
The tax workoff programs have existed elsewhere, we're told, but with property taxes becoming much more of a burden on homes that have less and less value lately, we'll hear more about these.

One interesting thing the young 'uns are doing in California is to use Proposition 8 to reduce their tax bills.
Across the U.S., concerns about property taxes have reached levels not seen since the passage of California's Proposition 13 in 1978. That landmark law capped property taxes at 1% of assessed value and said the base assessment on a home couldn't increase more than 2% a year until it is sold. A companion initiative, Proposition 8, allows homeowners to get assessments temporarily reduced during a weak housing market, until home prices recover.

This year, thousands of California homeowners -- primarily those who bought their homes in the past few years, at the market's peak -- are getting a tax break because of Proposition 8. Assessors in counties such as Ventura and Contra Costa decided to review thousands of properties sold since 2005 and reduced many of the tax bills mailed this fall.
With home prices down 6.7% in the nation (and more in CA, it appears) these revisions could be substantial. That cuts the amount of tax revenue the state collects and is helping create the fiscal emergency facing Gov. Schwarzenegger. And when Arnold tells Granny to get to work, you better believe she'll listen.

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