WOODSTOCK — The Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors recently approved changes to a real estate exemption for senior citizens and disabled homeowners.
The tax exemption, as it was, allowed eligible homeowners who made $30,000 or less to have a percentage of their property taxes waived based on the amount of their income. To be eligible for the break, one must be a property owner who is 65 or older or a homeowner who is permanently and totally disabled or both before Dec. 31, 2018.
The county has about 300 people who qualify for and utilize the tax break, said Kathy Black, Commissioner of Revenue.
“We might get a few more with the changes,” Black said.
Last week, supervisors changed the ordinance so that it increased the amount of income allowed. Qualified individuals who make $20,000 or less could have 100 percent of their property taxes waived up to $1,000.
An elderly and/or a disabled property owner who makes up to $33,000 could have a smaller percentage of their property tax waived.
The amount of real estate tax that will be waived is up to $1,000.
Under the former ordinance, a qualified owner who made $18,000 or less would not pay real estate tax up to the $1,000 cap. Someone who made up to $30,000 could have 30 percent of the property tax waived up to the cap.
Supervisors Rich Walker and Karl Roulston wanted further changes to the ordinance.
Walker had wanted to remove the $1,000 cap, allowing eligible homeowners relief from the entire amount of real estate tax.
Roulston had wanted to increase the cap to $2,000.
County attorney Jason Ham worried that removing the cap would create a loophole whereby someone could put property, such as a $1 million estate, into a trust and be eligible for a large exemption.
Walker said he did not believe anyone would abuse it and if they did, the board could then put a cap back in place.
Walker accused the other board members of voting against the poor.
“Maybe it’s your intention to drive poor people out of the county,” Walker said.
That insulted at least a few board members.
“No one on the board is trying to force poor people to move out, and I am frankly a little insulted,” Roulston said during the meeting.
After the meeting, chairman Conrad Helsley said he felt insulted.
“I think that was totally uncalled for and totally unnecessary,” Helsley said. “Why do we want to wait to see if someone abuses it? Why not put it in place and prevent it from happening.”