About 800,000 Ohioans take advantage of the homestead exemption credit that reduces their property tax burden. Now, a bill has been introduced that would reduce it even further for low-income and disabled veterans.
As a former Lawrence County Auditor, Republican Rep. Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) says he often spoke to homeowners who simply couldn't afford to stay in their homes because of their property tax burdens.
“Most people who are eligible for the homestead exemption here in Ohio are homeowners who are on a fixed income. One of the biggest enemies of people who are on a fixed income is inflation," Stephens says.
Now that he's replaced former Ohio House Speaker Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) as the district's representative in that chamber, Stephens is sponsoring a bill that he says will help those seniors by indexing the homestead exemption to inflation.
“The current homestead exemption does not take into consideration the cost of inflation," Stephens says.
Current Ohio law exempts the first $25,000 of a home’s value from property tax – saving people an average of $440. Stephens says his bill would increase that amount every year for low-income and disabled veterans.
“This will be done at the rate of inflation in the same manner as the inflation rate is calculated for the income eligibility," Stephens says.
Stephens says his bill would not restore the homestead exemption for all seniors. Historically, the exemption had been reserved for those seniors with the lowest incomes. But in 2007, then Gov. Ted Strickland expanded the homestead exemption to all senior, regardless of their income. In 2013, Republican Gov. John Kasich signed a law that reverted back to means testing to determine which Ohio seniors could get the tax break. But all seniors, regardless of income, who took advantage of the break up to that point were grandfathered into the program.
Stephens says he realizes some seniors who don't qualify for the break now might also be struggling to pay their tax bills. He says his plan does not lower the income threshold for being able to get the exemption.