Longstanding tax exemption for seniors gets new attention

A longstanding Rome school property tax exemption for income-eligible senior citizens needs more emphasis by the school district to help ensure public awareness of it, according to the Board of Education’s policy committee.

The committee last week reviewed a proposed new school tax policy draft that would include a section outlining the exemption, which has been in place since at least the mid-1990s but was not familiar to board members or district officials present at the meeting. School district property taxes are collected by the City of Rome, which lists the exemption on its website.

The exemption is separate from the state’s STAR tax break program and "pre-dates enhanced STAR" for senior citizens, said school district Director of Business and Finance Christoper Abdoo. It previously has "never come up since I’ve been superintendent," said Superintendent Jeffrey P. Simons, who was appointed in 2007. The board committee’s review was prompted by a resident’s recent call to the district regarding the exemption. Seniors must apply annually for it.

Under the district’s terms, senior citizen property owners with a total income of $16,499 or less can be eligible for 50 percent of assessed valuation to be exempt from taxes, with the percentage declining on an income scale until it reaches zero percent for income of $24,000 or more. For jointly owned property, either the husband or wife must be at least age 65. Title to the property must have been held for at least five years, and no exemption will be granted if a child living on the property attends a public school within the district.

The board tabled action on its tax policy draft. Abdoo said he will check for more data including how the exemption is applied.