Senior property tax rebates reduced
November 20, 2008
The Interim Finance Committee voted Thursday to reduce senior citizen property tax rebate checks to an average of $300 and to get them in the mail as soon as possible.
That is $34 less than the average check approved by the Board of Examiners just two weeks ago. But Aging Services Administrator Carol Sala and Human Services Director Mike Willden said to protect the rest of the services her agency provides from potentially deeper cuts, those checks should actually be cut to an average of $271.
Willden said the problem is if the state were to issue the original $334 average checks, then faced additional budget cuts of up to 11 percent this year, the agency would have to cut providers of client services.
He said if he had to cut just 7 percent more and take it out of client services, it would mean laying off 83 workers who provide a variety of services for senior citizens designed to keep them from being put in nursing homes or assisted living.
Sala said a total of 12,711 seniors are waiting for those checks, which can’t be mailed until IFC gives approval. Those seniors are those who are above the federal poverty line but still on minimal incomes. She said the 3,185 seniors at or below the poverty level on her list have already received checks for the full amount they are entitled to ” an average payment of $344.
Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, recommended going with the $271 figure. If the budget next round of budget cuts isn’t as severe as 11 percent, he said a second check could be issued to those seniors.
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Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said many of those low-income seniors rely on getting the full amount they expected for this year’s tax rebate. She said the committee should approve the $334 average and deal with protecting Aging Services from further cuts this year if necessary.
“We can’t cut your budget (another ) 11 percent,” she said. “We just can’t.”
Neither her motion nor Raggio’s seeking a $271 average check won a majority.
Chairman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, said no action was not an acceptable option since, without an IFC vote, no checks could be sent to those seniors.
Raggio offered a compromise at $300 and Buckley agreed. The vote was unanimous by the committee, which consists of the combined memberships of Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means.
The property tax rebate program was created in the 1970s and provides seniors with a family income of $27,863 a year or less rebates on their property taxes. The maximum amount any senior, defined as 62 or older, can receive is $500 a year. This year, Sala said, 17,570 applied for the rebates.
– Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.