Officials want more support for Homestead Exemption, higher use by seniors

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
More than 2,600 property owners now use the Homestead Exemption that lowers property taxes.
Still, the vice chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners says more senior citizens, disabled and veterans qualify for the exemption but don’t know about it.
Jon Barber wants the county to work harder at getting the message out to low-income seniors.
He got support from commissioners Monday to back legislation that would increase the income threshold from $25,600 annually to $35,000 for those age 65 or older. The income level applies to individuals or couples owning property jointly.
The exemption reduces the amount of property taxes eligible owners pay.
The board also approved a resolution calling for legislation to increase the income exclusion for veterans from $45,000 to $65,000.
Barber said it’s important for Rowan County to take the lead in pushing for the increased income exemptions.
The local legislative delegation will be asked to introduce a bill increasing the exemptions statewide.
Currently, the county excludes $102 million in property value, which equals $606,000 in taxes annually.
According to the county figures, 2,649 senior citizens and two veterans get exemptions.
Tax Administrator Jerry Rowland noted Rowan has a higher rate of participation than many other counties.
For example, Iredell has 1,629 using the exemption, and Cabarrus has 2,200.
Among several counties of similar size surveyed, only Davidson had more exemptions with 3,100.
Barber gave an extended presentation on the exemptions, stressing the various complications.
Commissioner Tina Hall asked Rowland for the short version.
Rowland said a man, woman or husband and wife who are 65 or older and have annual income or combined income of less than $26,500 and have lived in their house for more than five years qualify for the exemption.
“It’s been around for a long time,” Rowland said. The tax office works to get the word out and help those who qualify, he added.
For more information on the Homestead Exemption, contact the tax office at 704-216-8558.
In another matter Monday, the board approved an amendment to a conditional-use permit for Blandy Hardwoods Inc., a lumber processing facility at 735 Ginn Road.
The board approved the initial permit in 2005, but company owner Andy Frick never agreed to the conditions. The major stumbling block was that planned kilns and a planer had to be located 500 feet away from all property lines. The parcel did not have sufficient area to meet the qualification.
Neighbors urged commissioners to require better buffers and screening, as well as more asphalt to reduce dust.
After more than an hour of testimony and discussion, the board approved amendments including buffering and screening requirements. The board also specified that Frick must submit a site plan within 45 days showing where the new facilities are planned.
The board also granted his request to extend the vesting of the permit for five years รณ giving him extra time to carry out the expansion.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.