Senior Homestead Exemption

Assessor Steve Schleiker Address the Recent Proposal to Discontinue Funding for the Program


Yesterday the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) staff posted their various options for reducing State expenditures. One of the options is to suspend the Senior Homestead Exemption and possibly the Disabled Veterans Exemption programs. As many of you know, the full legislature reconvenes on May 18th.

SUSPEND HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION

JBC ACTION AS OF 3/16/20: Consistent with the staff recommendation, the Committee approved reflecting an informational appropriation based on the March 2020 revenue forecast. The Committee has not yet elected to use a forecast; however staff has updated this figure to be consistent with the March 2020 Legislative Council Staff (LCS) forecast of $163,578,262 General Fund.
RECOMMENDATION: Staff recommends that the Committee sponsor legislation to suspend the Homestead Exemption for tax years included in the FY 2020-21 state reimbursement.
In November 2000, Referendum A, also known as the Senior Homestead Exemption Act, was approved by the Colorado voters as an addition to our State Constitution. The Act took effect as of January 1, 2002, for property taxes payable in 2003. Specifically, the Act grants an exemption (reduction) up to one-half of the first $200,000 in market value from property taxes for a qualifying residential owner, if funding is available, which is determined each year by the State Legislature. In fact, there have been a handful of years the State Legislature voted to not fund this program (2003, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2011 not funded).
Qualified seniors must meet the following requirements:
• The applicant is at least 65 years old on January 1 of the year in which he or she applies
• The applicant or his or her spouse is the property owner of record and has owned the property for at least 10 consecutive years, and is their primary residence
As your El Paso County Assessor, the Senior Homestead Property Tax Exemption and Disabled Veterans Property Tax Exemption programs has and will continue to be one of my highest priorities.
Since 2014, the Senior Homestead Property Tax Exemption program has grown exponentially in El Paso County. Currently, there are over 27,000 seniors that are enrolled in this program, and my office serves as many seniors enrolled in the Senior Homestead Property Tax Exemption program than some of our neighboring counties have total population (Teller County, Elbert County).
The County Assessor in each of our 64 counties is the custodian of this program, and it is the State that oversees the funding and auditing, and I am extremely concerned with future funding from the State for this program.
Historically, the first $150 million of TABOR refunds is satisfied through the appropriation to the Senior Homestead Property Tax Exemption Program.
I feel many of our elected officials have forgotten their history. Why did our State Legislature decide to take this Referendum to the Colorado voters? Colorado was experiencing a very HOT real estate market, values of residential properties were going up by double digits, our seniors could not keep up with the cost of living and growing tax burden. Does this sound familiar? Sadly, 20 years ago many of our seniors could not pay their increasing property taxes and unfortunately many of these properties were either foreclosed on or went through a County Treasurer Tax Sale. At that time our State Legislature recognized this problem and proposed the Senior Homestead Property Tax Exemption program.
The arguments for in the 2000 Colorado Voter Blue Book were:
1. Assists low income seniors with rising tax burden
2. Allows long-time senior residents to age in place
3. Makes up for low levels of participation in the State Property Tax Deferral program
The proponents at the time were the Colorado Senior Lobby, AARP of Colorado, and thousands of Colorado citizens whom passed Referendum A with 54.7% support. I am sure these proponents would be in agreement that we should not be balancing the State Budget on the backs of our seniors, especially during a time where our senior population is surging in Colorado (+29.47% – 2010 thru 2015), and also during a time where most of Colorado is in a VERY HOT residential market, and the cost of living and taxes are going up faster than our seniors ‘fixed’ incomes….
As an elected official representing El Paso County, I respectfully ask you to support me and over 27,000 senior citizens and vote NO on any upcoming legislation to not fund the Senior Homestead Property Tax Exemption program to balance the State budget.
OUR SENIOR CITIZENS DESERVE BETTER! Stop balancing the budget off their backs.