I am concerned about the way the city currently applies homestead exemptions due to its inequitable impact. Because the exemption is based on a percentage of the property’s appraised value, residents with higher priced homes reap substantially greater benefits than those with homes of lesser value. As with corporate tax breaks, this puts an increased burden on other residents, including renters as landlords pass along the cost of their tax bills in the form of rent hikes. It also limits the city’s ability to pay for critical community needs, including better sidewalks, maintenance for public pools and parks, improved health and social services and other pressing needs.
I am strong supporter of the homestead exemption for senior citizens and people with disabilities, in which the city allows an exemption at a fixed amount. As a Council Member, I led effort to raise the amount of this particular exemption for first time in decades, and also instituted an annual process to bring this exemption to Council for regular consideration so it will keep pace with current conditions and not be forgotten again. Similarly, I would support a general homestead exemption set at a flat fixed rate or in a way otherwise caps the exemption so that wealthier residents do not enjoy a disproportionate advantage.
Of course, the city must also continue to lobby the state legislature to fix the root causes of escalating property tax bills, most notably our broken school finance system. As a Council Member, I made sure that property tax issues were a key piece of the city’s legislative agenda and will continue to do so as mayor.