Spotlight By John Toscano
The City Council, now in the process of drawing up its battle plan for the 2006-07 city budget, has included city Comptroller William Thompson's proposal to give certain senior homeowners a tax rebate of up to $600, which would be in addition to the $400 real estate tax rebate all homeowners are getting.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is already on record as opposing Thompson's plan, as we reported in our May 31 Senior Spotlight column. The council will have to take a firm stand on this to change the mayor's mind. Still, it appears to have a good chance of getting passed.
When Thompson first revealed his proposal at a City Hall press conference about a month ago, several councilmembers were present that day to show support. Among them was Councilmember David Weprin (D-Hollis), council Finance Committee chairman and the chief architect and negotiator of the council budget plan.
Thompson has said the $600 tax rebate would go to those homeowners with household incomes under $66,050. He said this amounts to 81,000 households and would cost the city about $50 million.
Thompson, who's planning to run for mayor in 2009, said he came up with the plan because many seniors live on fixed incomes and are presently hurting more than some others because of home heating fuel increases as well as gasoline price hikes.
In announcing his opposition to Thompson's proposal, the mayor said the city couldn't afford this in addition to the $400 property tax rebate all homeowners are going to receive this year. He also said it was unfair to single out a certain group of homeowners for the special aid because all homeowners are feeling the effects of rising living costs.
Thompson responded that his proposal was focused on a small number of seniors who have a special need for it.
If the council goes through with its plan to include Thompson's proposal in its budget, the chances of its being approved in the final budget are sure to increase.
TAX RELIEF FOR DISABLED, TOO: Another subgroup of homeowners, disabled persons living on limited incomes, may also be in for some additional real estate tax relief under legislation which has already passed the state senate under the sponsorship of Senator Frank Padavan (R-C, Bellerose).
Padavan's bill would authorize local governments to increase the maximum eligibility limit under the Disabled Real Property Tax exemption program from $24,000 to $29,000 over a period of years. Thus disabled homeowners with higher incomes than presently would become eligible for the exemption.
Padavan declared, "New York's disabled residents face tremendous challenges in their lives. On a daily basis, these individuals overcome obstacles and I believe that a break on their property taxes is the least we can do to lighten their loads."
Padavan noted that in May, when the senate celebrated Senate Disability Day, he was able to speak with a number of disabled persons, many of whom live on fixed incomes or earn less than other residents because of their disabilities.
"This bill would most definitely help to provide some relief," Padavan said.