Tax break for seniors

Assessor wants residents 65 and older to know about exemption that could cut tax bill in half

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— Some Routt County seniors will be able to take advantage of a property tax break that could reduce tax bills by more than $400.

Anyone 65 or older who has owned and occupied their primary residence for 10 years or more can qualify for a tax exemption that would take 50 percent off of the first $200,000 worth of property value.

That means seniors with homes valued at more than $200,000 would see a $100,000 reduction in their property values for tax purposes. For those with homes valued at less than $200,000, their values would be cut in half for tax purposes.

Routt County Assessor Amy Williams said that would mean a maximum property tax reduction of $443 for Steamboat, a deduction most homeowners would receive as average home prices in Steamboat range well over $200,000. Williams said with lower housing prices and mill levies that number could be less in Hayden and Oak Creek.

Known as the Senior Property Tax Homestead Exemption, the bill was singed in April 2001 and sponsored by state Sen. John Evans and state Rep. John Witwer. Williams said the bill was passed when the state still had a budget surplus and wanted to provide a tax break for seniors.

Williams estimated that the tax exemption could cost more than $100,000 in Routt County alone, but she said the state will reimburse the difference.

So far, Williams said the county has received about 500 applicants for the tax break and expects more as the July 15 deadline approaches.

"We've gotten a lot of applicants and most have qualified," Williams said.

Williams said the tax exemption has been well advertised with radio announcements and a notification through last year's tax bill. For the last few weeks, Williams has run an ad sponsored by the Routt County Republicans on radio.

Running unopposed for the county assessor office this election year, Williams said she thought the money she received for ad campaigns would be better suited informing the public about the tax exemption.

"We want friends, neighbors and caretakers to know. Even if the seniors don't catch (the tax exemption) someone else is going to," Williams said.

To qualify, seniors must be at least 65 years or older, be the current owner of record and listed as the owner of record for at least 10 consecutive years and must occupy the property as the primary residence for at least 10 consecutive years. Williams said there are some exceptions to the basic qualifications.

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