Last September, I broached the subject of the upcoming general property reassessment in District 8 (which is located in “Jefferson County Market Area 2”). Assessments are likely to increase, although by a lesser amount than in the 2015 reassessment. Over the next few months, we will provide more information and reminders about the appeals process if you think your reassessment doesn’t represent fair market value, but right now I want to focus on another, easier way to lower your taxes and save money: the Homestead Exemption.
The Homestead Exemption is basically a senior discount on property taxes. (This is important, so please keep reading regardless of your age.) If you are 65 years or older – or if you will turn 65 in 2020 – and you own and occupy your primary residence (as of 1/1/2020), then you qualify to exempt the first $39,300 of your home value from property taxes. In the Urban Services District, this equals $527 cash in your pocket annually – not an insignificant sum – and, once approved, you are not required to reapply unless you move.
In some states, the Homestead Exemption is automatic. In Kentucky, however, you need to apply. (Wouldn’t fixing this make a better SB 1 than family separation?) The good news is the application process is easy: complete this one-page form and mail it, along with a copy of your driver’s license (or ID), to the PVA. You’ll get a letter back that looks like this. The bad news is you can’t apply online; notice of the benefit is generally limited to a postcard; and many people are unaware of their rights, including seniors who have lost a spouse or live alone on a fixed income. I worry about people like that, so I set out to discover how many District 8 seniors may be eligible to receive the Homestead Exemption but aren’t – and the numbers are astounding.
I learned from the Kentucky State Board of Elections there are 6,234 registered voters in District 8 turning 65 or older in 2020. (It is the most comprehensive listing available of D8 residents by age.) Then I learned from the PVA there are 2,810 D8 households receiving the Homestead Exemption and 68 D8 households receiving the Disability Exemption. (Households are allowed only one exemption or the other.) Then I cross-referenced the data sets, identified unique households by last name, conducted hundreds of PVA property searches to exclude renters (who, unfortunately, are ineligible for the benefit) and came up with a total of approximately 1,966 individuals and couples who, collectively, could be spending $1,036,082 more on living than on paying taxes each and every year! (I say “approximately” to account for persons not registered to vote, owners of multiple homes, unmarried couples or married couples with different last names I might have missed or other human error and the freshness of the data.) Although the information is public and it would be expedient to publish the list of 1,966 here, age and property info is also personal, so I am choosing not to share the list at this time.
No matter the case, we must reach out and offer assistance to these homesteaders. That means calling or writing the names we recognize, maybe knocking on doors, certainly enlisting neighborhood associations to help and working in concert with the PVA. As discussed at Monday’s (1/27) District 8 Advisory Board meeting, I will follow up with neighborhood leadership soon; individuals willing to help, please contact me as per below. I hope we can pilot a successful program here in the Highlands because just imagine the numbers and the need across the city. Our seniors deserve it.
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