Higher property tax for Kenai Borough seniors?

Proposal would phase out $150,000 local exemption

After meeting on June 21 to discuss Ordinance 2014-24, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly has proposed that the borough do away with the optional $150,000 senior property tax exemption as the senior population in the Kenai Peninsula increases.

The state of Alaska requires that all municipalities offer senior citizens and disabled veterans a $150,000 tax exemption. The Kenai Peninsula Borough offers senior citizens an additional $150,000 tax exemption on top of that, meaning they do not pay taxes on the first $300,000 of their home’s assessed value.

Whether or not the ordinance to end the additional $150,000 exemption passes, seniors in the Kenai will still be entitled to the other $150,000 property tax exemption required by the state.

According to a graphic on the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s website explaining the ordinance, the changes would be phased in gradually beginning in 2018 and not apply to eligible seniors currently living off of these tax exemptions – currently exempt seniors or people who turn 65 before 2018 would see no changes.

Additionally, the borough’s hardship provision caps property tax payments at 2 percent of a property owner’s annual household income, and residents over 65 years of age after Dec. 31, 2023, with a home assessed at $200,000 or less would pay no borough or service area property tax.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre believes that taking away the optional senior property tax exemption will even out the Peninsula’s younger population’s financial burdens.

“The senior population is growing at 10 times the rate of regular population,” Navarre told the Peninsula Clarion earlier this month. “If we get to a point where we have 50 percent seniors and 50 percent non-seniors, should the non-seniors have to pay twice as much in order to pay for the services of the seniors?”

However, Kenai Peninsula senior advocates like Peter Zuyus feel the changes behind the ordinance attack senior citizens and will cause more economic hardship down the road.

“Mayor Navarre has a long term bias against seniors,” wrote Zuyus in a column for the Seward City News earlier this month. “The ordinance attempts to create inter and intra generational warfare by turning the KPB community against seniors and also turning current seniors against future seniors.”

According to Zuyus, the Alaska Coalition on Aging McDowell report survey of Alaska seniors estimates that 37 percent of seniors will move if the senior exemption is eliminated.

“The Kenai Peninsula Borough has been attractive to Alaska seniors because of its climate and senior exemption… We should be seeking retirees to the borough, not deem them a burden, as suggested by Mayor Navarre,” added Zuyus.

The assembly plans to meet on July 26 to vote on the ordinance once more before making it to the ballot in October. To view the graphic released by the Kenai Peninsula Borough, visit http://www.kpb.us/images/KPB/MYR/SalesPropertyTax/Senior_Tax_Exemption_Brochure_Final.pdf.

To contact your assembly representative about July’s vote, visit http://www.kpb.us/assembly-clerk/meet-the-assembly.

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