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Seniors disappointed in tax exemption eliminations

Nicole Inglis

At a glance

Senior property tax exemption in Moffat County:

• State paid 50 percent of as much as $200,000 of value in property taxes for those 65 and older.

• Exemption eliminated in light of state's budget deficit.

• The program benefited 492 seniors in Moffat County.

• Exemptions for those seniors totaled $167,292.24.

At a glance

Senior property tax exemption in Moffat County:

• State paid 50 percent of as much as $200,000 of value in property taxes for those 65 and older.

• Exemption eliminated in light of state’s budget deficit.

• The program benefited 492 seniors in Moffat County.

• Exemptions for those seniors totaled $167,292.24.

Jim Meineke, of Craig, will not be surprised when his property tax bill in 2010 is double what he paid this year.

But he will be disappointed.

“I think the seniors deserve a break, and the Colorado government is ignoring us,” he said. “I think it’s terrible.”

He’s referring to the state’s decision to eliminate a property tax exemption that benefited senior homeowners.

The exemption offered as much as 50 percent off the first $200,000 of value on property tax bills for seniors who have owned their home for more than 10 years. If a home is worth $100,000, people 65 and older paid taxes on $50,000.

Last year in Moffat County, the exemption aided 492 seniors, totaling $167,292.24 in exemptions.

“The state just couldn’t afford it anymore because of budget crunches, because of the way the whole country is doing, really,” Moffat County Assessor Suzanne Brinks said.

The state legislature will re-examine the issue in the next legislative session.

Moffat County Treasurer Robert Razzano said seniors could be hit extra hard next year because this year was a reappraisal year for the Assessor’s Office.

Many homes have gone up in value, he said, so seniors will have to pay double their new, higher tax bill.

“I think it’s a really bad thing that it’s gone,” Razzano said. “I think it will have a bad impact on the seniors. It’s like, they finally got a break, and now it’s being taken away.”

The elimination of the program is part of a reaction to the state’s budget deficit of almost $400 million for fiscal year 2010.

Razzano said the senior exemption program cost about $90 million statewide, and because the budget shortfall was so large, it was an easy chunk to get back.

Craig resident Rose Hutton was also a beneficiary of the program.

She said it will be difficult to pay double her property taxes.

“We live on a limited income, period,” she said. “It will be difficult, and we’ll have to take that money out of our retirement. It makes me almost wish they never had it, because it’s so hard to come up with that money once you’ve had it.”

The program was eliminated once before, three years ago, and then reinstituted.

Both Meineke and Hutton said they will have to make changes in their lifestyles, in light of the added tax bill.

“Of course it will affect me, and of course I will have to make changes because of it,” Meineke said. “I have no faith in our governor or our legislature. They are pumping all of their money into the I-25 corridor and lowballing the hell out of seniors and the Western Slope.”

Hutton said times are being made more difficult with higher taxes across the board to pay for new schools and a new hospital in Moffat County.

“We need all these nice things,” she said. “But someone has to pay for them. We’re our own worst enemies sometimes. I guess they feel if you have property, you can pay the taxes, but I know a lot of people who will really have trouble.


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