Ordinance would limit time frame for tax exemption

Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Juneau Assembly introduced an ordinance Monday that would impose a one-year time limit on property tax exemptions for senior citizens and veterans.

Included in the ordinance is specific language detailing a "good cause" exemption required by state law that allows both seniors and veterans to file for the tax break late if circumstances such as health issues, a family death or illiteracy are involved.

The Assembly approved the introduction without discussion.

In 2007, 1,128 seniors and 51 veterans applied for and received exemptions that removed $150,000 of taxable value from the assessor's bill. Additionally, 41 applied for a hardship exemption to further reduce their bill.

The Assembly approved all applications, including 10 late senior exemptions and nine late hardship exemptions filed for 2007.

Terry Yullmayer, city employee in the assessor's office, said two late filings from 2006 were also accepted. The Assembly won't normally approve late applications beyond one year, she said.

The most common reason listed for filing late is that people didn't know about the exemption, Yullmayer said.

Shortly after approving the introduction of the ordinance, the Assembly voted to deny William Ahrensfeld's late application for the senior citizen and hardship exemption, which would reduce his property tax burden by $1,163.

City Manager Rod Swope recommended the Assembly deny Ahrensfeld's exemption along with Judith Covey's, while recommending the members approve Kenneth Wingo's late senior tax exemption application.

Mayor Bruce Botelho said there had been previous discussion on the subject, and the previous late exemptions granted for 2007 were approved months ago.

Assembly member Merrill Sanford said the new ordinance would provide guidelines for making uniform decisions in the future.

Assembly member Johan Dybdahl said Ahrensfeld was not the first to list lack of knowledge as a reason for the late application.

"How do we make sure our seniors know these things?" he asked.

Swope said the city had "no proactive" way to notify those qualified for the exemption. In Covey's case the exemption would have reduced the taxable value of her $266,000 home to $116,000, lowering her tax debt by $1,205.

Swope said he had the recommended ordinance in mind when he suggested the Assembly not grant her exemption.

Unable to discern the exact reason why Covey's application for the exemption should be denied and Wingo's granted, the Assembly tabled those decisions for a later date to receive more information.

Swope recommended the Assembly accept Wingo's application based on his receiving an Alaska Permanent Fund dividend payment. It's one of the requirements, Swope said.

The Assembly is expected to act on the ordinance at its next regular meeting.

• Contact reporter Greg Skinnerat 523-2258 or by e-mail at greg.skinner@juneauempire.com.

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