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January 12, 2012

Making Life Easier for Seniors

Blaine R. Young

Ever since I was first elected to office as a Frederick City Alderman I have heard complaints from our senior citizens that they cannot afford to stay in Frederick County, or even the State of Maryland, to retire with dignity.


This is an issue that has stuck with me for more than 15 years, and on the campaign trail in 2010 I vowed, if elected, to see something done about it.


This month the Board of County Commissioners enacted a senior tax credit following enabling legislation from The General Assembly. Here are some quick facts about the credit taken from the Frederick County website.


·        The amount of the credit will be 20% of the net county real property taxes (up to zero) for qualifying homeowners.




·        Homeowner must be at least 65 years of age (if multiple homeowners, then one of the homeowners applying must be 65 years of age);


·        Gross income of household must be $60,000 or less; and


·        All other limitations and requirements of the State Homeowner Tax Credit apply.


Some of these limitations and requirements are:


·        Applicant must own or have a legal interest in the property;


·        Dwelling must be the principal residence of the applicant and applicant must live there at least six months of the year, including July 1, unless they are a recent home purchaser or the applicant is unable to do so because of health or need for special care;


·        Applicant’s net worth, not including the value of the property on which the credit is being sought or any qualified retirement savings or individual retirement accounts, must be less than $200,000; and


·        Credit is only granted on the taxes resulting from the first $300,000 of assessed value of the residence.


Is this perfect? I doubt it. But it is finally some action after years and years of nothing but discussion.


The issue really came to the forefront during the three terms in office of former County Commissioner Bruce Reeder. The welfare and wellbeing of our senior citizens was an issue very dear to Bruce. More than once he proposed that the county commissioners enact some sort of a senior tax credit, but there were never two others votes on the board who agreed to pass it. Therefore, the idea languished.


The current board went back to the work group that studied the issue during Commissioner Reeder’s time and asked them to take another look at the issue. They issued a report, and at a commissioners’ meeting we debated it.


One commissioner thought that the income and net asset threshold were too high. Some of us thought they were too low. But it was a compromise and it passed. Yes, this board is capable of disagreement and compromise. A request was also made from the commissioners to have the work group do an assessment after a year for additional feedback of the criteria.


Now, I am sure some of our many critics will say that we are merely pandering to a constituency that has a high voter turnout. I honestly don’t believe anyone on the board cared much about that. Certainly not me, as I will never again run for county commissioner.


Seniors have heard from all levels of government over the years that if it costs too much to live where you want to, then move. Or, in the alternative, get real poor and then we will help you.


That is certainly not a dignified way to treat people who have contributed to this community throughout their entire lives, and asked only that they be able to stay here and retire with their dignity intact.


I am proud to have been able to help them do so. I am tired of hearing about seniors who moved out of Frederick County or Maryland because of the high cost of living. I was also very pleased that when Commissioner Billy Shreve made the motion, he did so in honor of former County Commissioner Reeder, who was in attendance.


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