A permanent measure enacted by the Hays County Commissioners last month will give disabled residents and those 65 years old or older the ability to cap their county taxes starting in 2017.
The action, however, applies only to Hays County taxes and doesn’t apply to municipality, school, emergency service and special district-levied taxes.
According to a Hays County press release, the tax cap cannot be revoked by future commissioners courts. However, improvements made to a home, such as installation of a room or swimming pool, could incur tax increases.
“I think our County Commissioners Court and previous Courts truly understand and want to continue to do all we can to minimize the impact of taxes on all our citizens,” Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe said.
But Pct. 2 Commissioner Mark Jones, who voted against the measure, was concerned about the permanence of the court’s action.
“I agree with the concept of what we’re doing, but it gives me pause that we can’t revoke it. Our older population may grow due to our medical facilities,” Jones said, citing concerns that young families may have to pick up more of a tax burden.
Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley said the cap is “one of the only tools” the county has to place permanent restrictions on local taxes. Conley said the cap was the “right thing to do” and that the court wanted to give retirees and the disabled “a sense of certainty and stabilization for their lives.”
“This will benefit the most people and keep our senior citizens and disabled citizens from bearing the full burden of taxation,” Judge Bert Cobb said in a statement.
Pct. 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant said those who receive the exemption would have stability for their financial planning.
“You don’t have the flexibility of income you had when you were younger,” Whisenant said.
According to the release, to qualify as a disabled person, an applicant must meet the definition of disabled for the purpose of receiving disability insurance benefits under the Federal Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance Act.
A person who qualifies as both age 65 or older and disabled does not qualify for both, but must choose which exemption to claim.
If a person who qualifies for the exemption sells his or her homestead and purchases another in the county, the person can receive a tax ceiling certificate for the new homestead.
If the age 65 or older homeowner dies, the surviving spouse may continue to receive the local option exemption if the surviving spouse is age 55 or older at the time of death, lives in and owns the home and applies for the exemption, and does not remarry.