Enact The Property Tax Freeze Law - And Response (2)

Monday, March 20, 2017

I am a resident of Hamilton County and have owned property in this county since 1981.  I am 66 years of age and have lawfully paid my Hamilton County taxes since 1981. 

For all of you who are in the same situation, please contact our county officials to ask that they enact the Property Tax Freeze law for persons 65 years of age and older. 

It is unacceptable that our Hamilton County government officials have failed to enact the following act for all Hamilton County seniors, or to provide us with an acceptable reason for this delay for a law that was approved by Tennessee voters 10 years ago.  Anderson, Bledsoe, Bradley, Davidson, Franklin, Coffee, Knox, Roane, and Sevier counties are among the 23 counties in the state that have already enacted this law. 

In November 2006, Tennessee voters approved an amendment to Article II, Section 28 of the Tennessee Constitution giving the General Assembly the authority by general law to authorize counties and/or municipalities to implement a local option property tax freeze for taxpayers 65 years of age or older. 

In its 2007 session, the 105th General Assembly enacted the Property Tax Freeze Act which establishes the tax freeze and authorizes the legislative body of any county and /or municipality to adopt the property tax freeze program.  The Act became effective on July 1, 2007. 

I have contacted our county officials by letter and expect to receive a reply from each of them very soon.  If you are concerned as well, you may contact our officials at addresses provided at the Hamilton County government website.

Deanne Hawthorne
Harrison 

* * * 

The senior property tax freeze is not a blanket freeze for all seniors. The senior tax freeze is only for seniors in Hamilton County who earn less than $38,720 total income from all sources per household a year. 

The following information comes from the website: http://www.tennesseniors.com/ 

In November 2006, Tennessee voters approved an amendment to the Tennessee Constitution authorizing a property tax freeze for elderly homeowners. This amendment to Article II, Section 28 of the Tennessee Constitution gives the General Assembly the authority by general law to authorize counties and municipalities to implement a local option property tax freeze for taxpayers 65 years of age or older. 

In its 2007 session, the 105th General Assembly enacted the Property Tax Freeze Act (Senate Bill 2 / House Bill 1033) which establishes the tax freeze.  Under the Act, the legislative body of any county or municipality is authorized to adopt the property tax freeze program. The Act becomes effective on July 1, 2007.

Provisions:

Homeowners qualifying for the program will have the property taxes on their principal residence frozen at a base tax amount, which is the amount of taxes owed in the year they first qualify for the program. Thereafter, as long as the owner continues to qualify for the program, the amount of property taxes owed for that property will not change, even if there is a property tax rate increase.  

In order to qualify, the homeowner must file an application annually and must: 

Own their principal place of residence in a participating county and/or city.
Be 65 years of age or older by the end of the year in which the application is filed
Have an income from all sources that does not exceed the county income limit established for that tax year
In counties and municipalities participating in the Tax Freeze Program, application may be made to the county Trustee or city collecting official. 

The state Comptroller’s Office will calculate the income limit for each county annually using a formula outlined in state law.

 Situations where the base tax amount would change for a homeowner are: 

When improvements are made to the property resulting in an increase in its value
When the homeowner sells their home and purchases another residence
The tax freeze is available only on the principal place of residence of the qualifying homeowner located in a participating county or city. There are limitations on the amount of land that can be included for residential purposes in the program, and the program does not apply to portions of the property not used for residential purposes.

Larry Grohn 

* * * 

No disrespect is intended, but Mr. Grohn's response to the lady's request for local adoption of the Property Tax Freeze is pretty much irrelevant.  Since the State of Tennessee website indicates that as of Aug. 11, 2016, the governments of Hamilton County and Chattanooga have not chosen to participate in the tax freeze program, having the characteristics of the state law spelled out does nothing for local property owners. 

The original letter merely and clearly asked, "please contact our county officials to ask that they enact the Property Tax Freeze law for persons 65 years of age and older." 

That seems to be a reasonable and necessary local request.  It's necessary because the government of each county and each municipality in the state has the option of adopting a tax freeze -- they have the option, but no obligation. 

Which means that, for all practical purposes, such seemingly benevolent state legislation is just another law with no teeth, a nice-sounding legislative act providing no relief at all unless local officials choose to comply. 

So ... is there any way that local citizens can force a local vote to get some local action here?  If not, the whole idea of a property tax freeze remains simply an idea, which does not apply to any of us around here. 

Besides, the TennesseeSeniors website states, "In 2016 over 49,000 Tennesseans enjoyed over $3,700,000 in tax relief through this program," which amounts to an average saving of about $75 for each of those who qualified for the program and successfully jumped through all of the necessary hoops.  Mr. Grohn's letter does pretty well spell out all of those necessary hoops.  It might be simpler and save time, just to find a way to earn another $75 (after taxes, of course) and not worry about the tax freeze complications. 

Interestingly enough, according to the state Tax Freeze website, supposedly prosperous Hamilton County is way down on the State's list of prosperity for ages 65 and over.  And I suspect this present topic of discussion helps to explain exactly why that is so.

Larry Cloud
Chattanooga and Hamilton County property taxpayer


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