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Niagara County plans updated tax breaks for seniors, disabled

LOCKPORT – Plans are afoot to update the income thresholds for property tax exemptions for senior citizens and disabled persons in Niagara County.

Resolutions to set the new values were introduced at a recent County Legislature meeting by Legislator Anthony J. Nemi, I-Lockport.

Nemi said the standards haven’t been altered since 2006. He said the assessor in Pendleton told him recently that four or five people lost their exemptions because their income has become too high.

“People with a little bit of increase in cost-of-living adjustments are out of these categories,” Nemi said.

At present, there are 2,699 senior exemptions and 319 disability exemptions in force in the county, according to County Real Property Tax Director John E. Shoemaker.

As the law currently stands, anyone age 65 and older who has an income of less than $25,524 a year is eligible for a tax break. Nemi’s proposal would boost the maximum income for the property tax reduction to $28,499.

The exemption shrinks as income rises. A senior who currently earns $18,025 or less receives a 50 percent property tax exemption. The new proposal would set the limit for the 50 percent break at $21,000 of income per year.

There are nine different percentages of exemptions, with the break getting 5 percent smaller for every $900 to $1,000 of income. The lowest break, 10 percent, would go to those seniors earning $27,600 to $28,499 a year.

The tax scale operates similarly for people certified by the Social Security Administration as disabled. The 50 percent property tax break is currently available for those earning less than $15,025 a year; Nemi’s plan would move that limit up to $17,500 a year. There are 10 steps on the sliding scale for tax breaks for the disabled, with a 5 percent tax break now available to those earning $22,525 to $23,425.

Under Nemi’s proposal, the 5 percent break would go to those disabled persons earning $25,000 to $25,900 a year.

Shoemaker said the taxable status deadline for 2017 exemptions already has passed, so any action the Legislature takes won’t go into effect until the January 2018 county tax bills.

He also said the changes wouldn’t affect school, city, town or village taxes. Those levels of government would have to pass their own changes in the income thresholds.

The proposed changes in the county’s thresholds will be considered by the Legislature’s Administration Committee. If it approves, the full Legislature is expected to hold a public hearing and vote on Sept. 20.