Albemarle County will likely slightly modify its real estate tax relief for the elderly and disabled program and add a new program for surviving spouses of persons killed in the line of duty during the upcoming budget process.
The Board of Supervisors on Wednesday supported increasing the income limit slightly, from $69,452 to $75,100 and base the relief percentage mainly on income. It also supported implementing a new real estate tax exemption program for surviving spouses of persons killed in the line of duty at the state or local level.
County staff said the board’s direction will be built into the county executive’s recommended budget, which will be presented on Feb. 23.
To qualify for the real estate tax relief for the elderly and disabled program, a person has to be at least 65 years old or has been medically determined to be totally and permanently disabled
Currently, the applicant’s combined total income cannot exceed $69,452 and their total net worth cannot exceed $200,000. The percentage of relief a person receives is based on the range of their income, then the range of their total net worth and falls into one of nine tiers.
For example, a person who makes between $30,000 and $50,000 can receive a 50% to 70% real estate tax reduction under the current program, depending on their total net worth.
Under the proposed program, an applicant’s combined total income cannot exceed $75,100 and the total net worth requirement remains at $200,000 or less. The percentage of relief a person receives would still be based on the range of their income, and falls into one of only three tiers — less than $30,000; $30,001 to $50,000; and $50,001 to $75,001.
“We’re suggesting to increase the income threshold to match the [area median income] that is at $75,100,” said Jacob Sumner, Albemarle’s assistant CFO for policy and partnerships.
With the proposed program, a person who makes between $30,000 and $50,000 would receive a 75% real estate tax reduction, as long as their net worth does not exceed $200,000.
Approximately $1.2 million worth of relief was provided in 2021 through this program, Sumner said, and the proposed change increases the current level of relief by approximately $100,000.
Supervisors were supportive of the proposed changes, but many wanted to see the income tiers change slightly.
“If people were in the zero to [$30,000] five years ago, it’s probably zero to [$35,000] now,” Supervisor Ned Gallaway said. “It seems like since we’re adjusting the top end, maybe those two ranges in the middle [could be too], but I’ll leave that to you guys to discuss.”
County staff said the county does not have the legal authority to provide relief to renters, but board Chair Donna Price said the board should consider putting that on its legislative agenda for the 2023 General Assembly session.
“We’re in an era where housing costs are so high that more and more people are forced into rentals, and I think it’s a matter of equity — we should seek to be able to provide some sort of comparable relief for those who are tenants,” she said.
The board was also supportive of adding a new real estate tax program for surviving spouses of persons killed in the line of duty at the state or local level, which would provide a full exemption up to the average assessed value of a single-family residence in Albemarle.
According to county staff, the average 2021 assessed value of single-family residence is $426,850. They estimated that there would be approximately 15 people eligible, with an estimated tax relief total of $45,000 to $55,000.