Monday, June 17, 2024
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Commissioners Pass Senior Tax Freeze Program

Putnam County Commissioners approved implementation of the Tax Freeze Act Monday night, providing property tax relief to some low-income residents.

Qualifying individuals 65 or older, meeting the income threshold, could apply to the county to have the tax rate frozen, despite any future property tax increases. Commissioners passed the act unanimously after several months of study. County Commissioner Vinnie Faccinto said it would not have a large financial impact on the county.

“It gives senior citizens who are on a fixed income, to know from that point forward and that day forward what their property taxes are going to be.” Faccinto said. “We will no longer have the situation that we hear every budget cycle where the property tax increase has just destroyed their budgets.”

County Mayor Randy Porter said roughly 1,300 Putnam County residents would be eligible for relief under the Tax Freeze Act. Porter said considering last year’s property tax increase of 18.8 cents, the act could cost the county several hundred thousand dollars.

State law requires that taxpayers file the paperwork annually. Putnam County would start at the state minimum of $39,890 in gross adjusted income. The state sets the minimum, but commissioners can raise the minimum based on the current financial picture.

A resident can have only up to five acres of land considered and Putnam County must be the primary residence.

The act would only impact the county tax rate, not the cities inside the county. An eligible resident must be 65 by December 31 of that tax year. The program does not include handicapped persons or veterans.

Faccinto said hard costs for the program would be around $130,000. Faccinto said a lot of counties did not staff the program to deal with the process, dooming the outcome.

“I don’t want it to be something that we end up spending a fair amount of money for, for just a little bit of bang,” County Commissioner Jonathan Williams said. “I want to make sure we are getting a bang for our buck.”

Tennessee’s Tax Freeze legislation began in 2006, with at least 25 counties using the process to limit the tax burden for low-income residents. Putnam County considered the plan several times, but never brought it up for a vote.

“What little we would have to raise the tax to make up for this is miniscule,” County Commissioner David Andrews said. “I think that we would be derelict in our duties if we didn’t pass this.”

The freeze would only go into effect at the time of the next property tax increase. Residents can still apply for tax relief, a separate program. That programs also provides help to veterans and the disabled.

In other business, Commissioners approved a new ten-year plan for Solid Waste, as required by the state.

County Mayor Randy Porter said county officials filed the plan with TDEC, including an overview of the county’s disposal, recycling and solid waste plans for the next decade.

Commissioners approved Bryan Payne for a new three-year term on the Putnam County Library Board. The term ends June, 2027.

Commissioners voted to give Porter the power to negotiate the purchase of land for industrial development jointly with the City of Cookeville. City Council members voted last week to give City Manager James Mills similar ability. The land under discussion, the price tag, and its usage have not been disclosed.

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