HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION DEBATE CONTINUES AS GALLAGHER AMENDMENT IS REVIEWED

By Eileen Doherty, MS ~

DENVER, CO.  As Colorado policy makers continue to debate the need for changing the Senior Homestead Exemption Program, older adults recently weighed in at a senior forum to keep the benefit as it currently exists in the Colorado Constitution.  Older adults preferred to keep the tax relief they receive through the Homestead Exemption, given the recent property tax increases due to increased market values.

“I get about $50 per month in the Homestead Exemption.  That is just about enough to cover the $600 increase that I received in a property tax increase this year,” stated George Maxey, a Commerce City resident.

The Homestead Exemption is available to homeowners age 65 and over who have lived in their home for ten years or more.

While older adults entertained the idea of being able to use the Homestead Exemption if they moved or downsized to a smaller home, some noted that would result in even higher costs to the state and increase the risk of the program being totally eliminated. Another change was to give tax relief based on income or market value of the home. 

Representative Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale is chairing an Interim Committee to study alternatives to another constitutional amendment, the Gallagher Amendment. The Gallagher Amendment was passed in 1982 by the voters in response to what was then “considered very high property taxes”.  Homeowners were concerned with the increases in property taxes due to economic conditions, mostly as a result of the oil and gas boom of the early 80s.

The Gallagher Amendment limits the assessed value of the home which results in lower property taxes for homeowners.  Property taxes are paid to the county and fund schools, county roads, fire and police departments.  In recent years, some counties have had difficulty funding these basic services. 

The legislature is only studying alternatives to the Gallagher Amendment. Policy makers are continuing to look at ways to reduce funding for the Homestead Exemption, all the while making homeowners at risk of increased property taxes.  Talking with elected officials and those running for office is one way older adults can continue to bring attention to the importance of these constitutional amendments that help them afford to live in their own home. For more information, call 303-333-3482.

Eileen Doherty

Eileen Doherty

Eileen Doherty, MS is the Executive Director of the Colorado Gerontological Society.  Her areas of expertise include management and administration of nonprofit organizations, education and training on issues related to older adults, advocacy and policy development on senior issues, and clinical practice in working with seniors and families to manage their lives in the later years. She has been the Director of the Society since 1982.  She teaches Nonprofit Management for Fort Hays State University.